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The Sapphires is an inspirational tale set in the heady days of the late '60s about a quartet of young, talented singers from a remote Aboriginal mission, discovered and guided by a kind-hearted, soul-loving manager. Plucked from obscurity, the four spirited women with powerhouse voices - called The Sapphires - are given the opportunity to entertain American troops in Vietnam. Catapulted onto the world stage as Australia's answer to the Supremes, their journey of discovery offers them not only the chance to show off their musical skills, but find love and togetherness, experience loss and grow as women.
For more about The Sapphires and the The Sapphires Blu-ray release, see the The Sapphires Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell
Director: Wayne Blair
» See full cast & crew
The Sapphires Blu-ray Review
Do these Sapphires sparkle?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 1, 2013
We'll see you in Saigon.
What a terrific film. The Sapphires shows that goodhearted, well-meaning, uplifting, and downright fun movies can work on a number of levels, making a go of it and beating all expectations even without excess digital manipulation, needless violence and language, phony emotions, stereotyped characters, or forced humor. While the overreaching plot arc isn't particularly novel and the film plays out largely as the audience expects, The Sapphires embraces its characters and finds in them a harmony beyond their singing voices, a beauty beyond their physical appearances, and a soul more prominent than even that of the music they sing. Director Wayne Blair's telling of this real-life tale of discovery, togetherness, overcoming all sorts of odds, and finding true love both on the stage and off of it is perhaps 2012's best of the largely overlooked, a movie that has it all and that plays with a heart as big as its characters, a gentleness worthy of its themes, and a toe-tapping rhythm that's irresistible from the first note to the last.
In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Australia's Aboriginal population faced extreme prejudice and was not afforded many of the basic civil rights enjoyed by white Australians. So poorly thought of were the Aboriginal people that, for a time, they were not considered human but instead classified as native "flora and fauna." When three Aboriginal girls -- Gail (Deborah Mailman), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), and Julie (Jessica Mauboy) -- perform at a talent show and outperform their more purely white fellow contestants, they lose in a blatant example of discrimination. However, they do catch the eye of a down-on-his-luck talent agent named Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd) who believes in the girls' talents and pushes them to sing more soulful music rather than their preferred Country & Western tunes. The girls, in turn, push Dave to help them gain entry to Vietnam to perform for the troops. They're reunited with their long-lost and paler-skinned cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) and become "The Sapphires." In Vietnam, they come together as a singing group while growing up in a combat zone, finding love, and making something out of their lives.
Though the filmmakers have probably taken more than a few liberties with the original true story for dramatic purposes, The Sapphires plays like an authentic representation of its era and of a place and certainly of a people perhaps not so instantly recognizable on the outside but who feel like family once their story has been told. The Sapphires manages an imitate character study without feeling like a classic, burdensome character study. The film evokes a positive sense of togetherness, both between the characters and throughout the audience, too. It's made of a classic "stand-up-and-cheer" sort of structure, but there's so much enthusiasm, integrity, and heart that there's hardly a hint of the manufactured, even when it's there. Instead, the characters, their music, their loves, their ups, and their downs all come to life to hugely satisfying results. The picture perfectly balances all of its elements. The characters come first, and formed through them is a tremendously strong beating heart that brings into focus all of the other film's positives, whether the lively music they sing or the soulful emotions they so naturally express. Indeed, there's a very real sense of kinship, not just relating to and between these girls (and Dave) but that extends to the audience with every shot, scene, and sequence. That sort of involvement is rare, and welcome. It makes The Sapphires something special within a framework that, externally, doesn't look like it has much to offer when, in fact, quite the opposite is true.
Just as important, the movie is very well put together. The cast is fantastic. There's an unmissable chemistry between the girls, and they're not just family because history and the script say they're family, but because they feel like family from the inside out, both at the most uplifting highs and the most quarreling lows. The actresses appear to bond, too, and that sense of togetherness only further benefits the movie and molds it into a greater cohesive whole. They sing as well as they act, too, and their music proves fully invigorating and soulfully satisfying, creating a harmony that's not just expected of the film but one that's defined by something deeper beyond the voice, and that's an honest feel of togetherness beyond the stage and a true bonding of sisterhood (and cousinhood). As one, they overcome preconceived notions of race and origin, defeating the outward demons as well as the inward struggles that bends, but never breaks, their harmony on the stage and off of it. The picture builds real, moving themes around them, and that they overcome so much hate and so many misguided prejudices, not to mention truly finding themselves and thriving on the battlefield, elevates the picture beyond most of these sorts of films and gives it a real sense of fulfillment and satisfaction for really beating the odds, not just defying them. Movies don't get much more uplifting and genuine as The Sapphires.
The Sapphires Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Sapphires looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Anchor Bay's 1080p transfer appears exceedingly good in all areas. It's vibrant and finely detailed, very crisp and well-defined from start to finish and under every lighting condition. However, the early daytime, sun-drenched exteriors fare best. There's an unmistakable brilliance to the first act; it's incredibly bright but naturally so, displaying a rainbow's worth of exciting colors that are amongst the finest to be seen on Blu-ray. Whether buckets of oranges, green grasses, or a multicolored throw rug, the transfer revels in its tremendously gorgeous palette at every opportunity. Even military fatigue greens and the darker earthen shades seen in Vietnam look amazing. Details, too, are just as exacting. Facial textures are naturally excellent, while clothing lines -- from army fatigues to sparkly dresses -- reveal every last intimate stitch and detail. Image clarity is superb, and there's not a soft corner to be seen anywhere in the film. A light grain overlay helps define a picture-perfect and film-like appearance. Skin textures are spot-on across the wide range of hues seen in the film, and black levels are deep and accurate. There are a couple of instances of very minor banding, but this is otherwise a superior transfer in every regard.
The Sapphires Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Sapphires features a well balanced and natural DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The film opens with some well placed environmental ambience that helps define the country-like atmosphere. It transitions to smooth 60s music beats, not particularly aggressive beats but they're certainly naturally implemented with a strong front stage presence and a gentle surround element. Vocal clarity is excellent, critical in developing the characters and their musical abilities. There's a pure harmony to the singing, not phony engineered elements, and that beautiful sound comes through effortlessly with the lossless audio presentation. The track finds its most aggressive elements in Vietnam. Choppers fly around the stage with natural presence and weight as they rumble from side to side. Distant explosions help define an unsettling sequence, and a larger and closer battle offers well placed and terrifying gunfire, the sound of zooming artillery shells, and hefty explosions defined by generous, but not overwhelming, bass. General dialogue comes through crisply and naturally from the center. In every area this is a top-notch soundtrack from Anchor Bay.
The Sapphires Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Sapphires contains three featurettes. A DVD copy of the film is also included in the case.
The Sapphires Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Sapphires may not represent cinema at its most brilliant or even all that original, but it's a film that gets everything right. The cast is phenomenal and shares an unmistakable chemistry, whether performing on-stage or interacting in the film's most dramatically charged moments. Better, the film is very tender, goodhearted, well-meaning, and thoroughly enjoyable as an uplifting can-do picture about overcoming and beating the odds even in the most challenging of places and times. No, it won't walk away with the originality award, but this unheralded gem will sing its way into hearts everywhere. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of The Sapphires features outstanding video and audio. It's a shame the supplements are so brief. Nevertheless, the disc comes highly recommended on the quality of the film and the technical A/V merits.
The Sapphires Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Sapphires Blu-ray - June 19, 2013
Anchor Bay Home Entertainment and The Weinstein Company will release on Blu-ray director Wayne Blair's The Sapphires (2012), starring Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, and Jessica Mauboy. The release will be available for purchase on August 6th.
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