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Two boys, Ellis and his friend Neckbone, find a man named Mud hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Mud describes fantastic scenarios—he killed a man in Texas and vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he is planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper, who is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him. It isn’t long until Mud’s visions come true and their small town is besieged by a beautiful girl with a line of bounty hunters in tow.
For more about Mud and the Mud Blu-ray release, see Mud Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 27, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon
» See full cast & crew
Mud Blu-ray Review
If only everything were as clear as this 'Mud'.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 27, 2013
It's more than a little ironic that it was Reese Witherspoon whose name was mud as Mud started its festival rollout in April of this year. Witherspoon, enjoying one of the squeaky cleanest reputations of any major film actress, suddenly found herself emblazoned across the front pages of virtually every newspaper in the land (and not just the tabloids, mind you), for her semi-drunken rants at a policeman who had pulled her husband over for driving under the influence. Witherspoon took a page out of the Patti LuPone playbook and with great umbrage asked the cop, "Do you know who I am?", to which the policeman politely replied that he didn't, only engendering further rage in the normally beautifully behaved actress. Witherspoon did some quick damage control once the story broke, something helped by the fact that she had to be in New York to promote Mud anyway, and so was made available to many press outlets in order to do her walk of shame and tell the world how much she had learned from her misadventure. Of course the title character in Mud is actually played by Matthew McConaughey, a Southern actor himself who has been on something of a tear recently exploiting the down and dirty ethos of the lower latitudes in such films as Killer Joe and The Paperboy. McConaughey seems intent to reinvent the Modern Southern Male in a rather unexpected new guise. While there's still a certain level of chivalry, it's still shaded with other, darker aspects that subverts the common perception of gallant men catering to winsome Southern Belles.
Mud might be thought of as a kind of post-modern reboot of Mark Twain's immortal Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn tales, for the film deals with two southern teenaged lads whose adventures (and/or misadventures) make up the bulk of the film. Much as in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Mississippi and an island with an unexpected stowaway play a central part in the story. (I feel compelled to mention I came to this perhaps obvious conclusion before listening to Jeff Nichols' commentary, where he not only confirms the Twain connection, but goes so far as to admit he outright stole some elements from Twain's writing for this film.) The young protagonists of Mud are Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). Ellis is the leader of this small pack, and he convinces Neckbone to join him on a quest to an "off limits" island in the Mississippi where rumor has it a boat has been stranded high in a tree due to a recent flood. (Those who like this kind of fanciful placement of an unexpected object may want to check out Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed's charming children's book Red Ranger Came Calling, which is a fanciful tale spun out of an old photo of an abandoned bicycle around which a tree has actually grown, leaving the bike improbably protruding from either side of a very thick trunk. Like Mud, Red Ranger Came Calling also deals with the coming of age of a young male protagonist.)
Ellis is dealing with some roiling family dysfunction from which he is more than happy to escape. His mother wants a big change of pace—she has been living on a houseboat on the Arkansas River for her entire life, and she yearns to become a "townie". However, Ellis' father makes what little living he can scratch out from working on the river, selling the fish he catches, and if Ellis' mother abandons the houseboat, the River Authority will dismantle the abode under some law which is complained about but never really explained very well within the context of the film. Ellis, taking off from this conflicted situation, is more than happy to spend time with his best buddy Neckbone, and the two use their little motorboat to power out to a nearby island nestled in the middle of the Mississippi. There, they not only find the rumored stranded boat high up in a tree, they discover Mud (Matthew McConaughey), who has been holed up in the craft. Mud initially frightens the boys, but Ellis seems to recognize a kindred spirit and when Mud asks for help getting some food, Ellis is more than happy to oblige.
Things take a turn toward the dangerous when Ellis discovers that State Troopers are on the hunt for Mud, and Mud admits to having shot and killed a man who had abused his girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Mud is hoping to reunite with Juniper and high tail it out of there. With the roads blocked by the police, Mud decides his best bet is to get the boat out of tree and make his way south via the water. He asks for the boys' help, and though Neckbone isn't especially thrilled to be involved, he grudgingly goes along with Ellis. The two co-conspirators go on a marauding rampage trying to purloin items for Mud's mad quest, and they also make contact with Juniper, who is actually being threatened by the family of the man Mud murdered.
Mud is a surprisingly sweet meditation on what it means to be a man of honor, and for some it may recall films as disparate as To Kill a Mockingbird and Swamp Water. Ellis' predicament, much like Mud's, is that he yearns for a way out, but isn't quite sure how to get there. He's a victim of circumstance, a kid on the verge of manhood (his nascent relationship with a local girl is an important subplot), but seeing that full fledged men are often as lost as he is.
Writer-director Jeff Nichols has been making quantum leaps between his few feature films. Shotgun Stories announced a major new talent on the scene, and Take Shelter confirmed the hunch that Nichols was a major artist with a singular vision. Mud is in some ways his most personal film, and it is a finely crafted, superbly nuanced piece of filmmaking that exults in an incredible atmosphere which is both stifling and unexpectedly unshackled. Nichols also draws impeccable performances out of his cast. McConaughey and Witherspoon are in fact kind of supporting characters in this drama, with Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life ) and Jacob Lofland the real stars here, both absolutely perfect in their roles. The supporting cast includes a number of notable names, including an almost unrecognizable Sam Shepard as a neighbor of Ellis' who has a long history with Mud, and Joe Don Baker as the father of the man Mud murdered.
Uncommonly scenic and laconic without ever being dull, Mud is a haunting experience—for the most part. Nichols engages in some unneeded hyperbole at the film's climax, staging a kind of ridiculous shootout that subverts the more gentle ambience of the rest of the film. But it's a small misstep in an otherwise beautifully realized character study. The film competed for the Palme d'Or in the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, but was only officially released in the United States this year. Academy members are not known for their long memories, but if there's any justice in the world, Nichols will be garnering at least one, and possibly two, Oscar nominations for his largely impeccable contributions to this film.
Mud Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mud is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This elegiac film boasts some gorgeous scenery which pops magnificently on this high definition presentation. Depth of field and fine object detail meld to give an immersive visual experience. Nichols and cinematographer Adam Stone exploit a lot of Steadicam work here, getting up close and personal with the characters, which aids fine detail even more. Many scenes seem to have been shot in natural lighting conditions, and there is some minimal loss of shadow detail at times as a result. There are several scenes that are drenched in a gorgeous amber hue, but fine detail is not compromised much if at all. Contrast remains strong throughout the presentation and there are no stability issues to report.
Mud Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mud's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix may be unassuming, but it's rather nuanced and very immersive, especially with regard to the nonstop use of ambient environmental sounds. The scenes on the island are especially notable in this regard, with the subtle lap of waves, leaves rustling in the breeze, and the flutter of birds' wings all adding up to a beautifully rendered sonic experience. Dialogue is very cleanly presented and at times is nicely directional. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range has occasional bursts of activity, especially in the film's boisterous climax.
Mud Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mud Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Having reviewed several of Matthew McConaughey's "Southern Fried Gothic" films of the recent past, I wasn't quite sure how I would feel about Mud. Though perhaps regionally linked to some of these other films (albeit somewhat tenuously), Mud is a much "kinder, gentler" approach toward the South than Killer Joe or The Paperboy. Anchored by a beautiful performance by Tye Sheridan (who really should garner a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod next year), Mud is a captivating meditation on what becoming a man really means. Heartfelt and touching without ever tipping over into syrupy territory, Mud confirms that Jeff Nichols is one of his generation's most accomplished filmmakers. This Blu-ray offers beautiful video and audio and comes Highly recommended.
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Mud Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 6-13 - August 4, 2013
For the week of August 6th, Universal Studios is releasing Oblivion, which is Joseph Kosinski's flawed-but-fascinating follow-up to Tron: Legacy. Other releases include Jeff Nichols' phenomenal drama Mud, with its great Matthew McConaughey performance, the multigenerational ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Mud - July 27, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Lionsgate Films are offering two members a chance to win a copy of Mud. This acclaimed drama written and directed by Jeff Nichols features Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and The Tree of Life's young Tye Sheridan as an Arkansas youth ...
• Jeff Nichols' Mud Gets U.S. Release Date (Updated) - May 30, 2013
Lionsgate Films and Roadside Attractions have revealed that they are planning to bring to Blu-ray director Jeff Nichols' latest film, Mud (2012), starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, and Jacob Lofland. The preliminary release date set by the distributors ...
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