The Homesman (Blu-ray)

March 2, 2015 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Pioneer life has driven three women mad, and a hardworking, single woman named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) agrees to across country. It takes some convincing, but ultimately she enlists the help of George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones, who also directed and co-wrote). Briggs is certainly an interesting character; Cuddy frees him from a noose after he’s left to be hanged. The reason is because Briggs was using another man’s land claiming it to be his own. And so their journey begins. They run into some potential threats along the way, including a man who learns that Cuddy is traveling with Briggs. The man knows of him, and what he has done. There’s also a brief encounter with some Indians as well as a few other hiccups. The journey and the relationship between Cuddy and Briggs is the main focus of the film for a good portion. We never learn much about the three women that they’re escorting, but it’s clear that Cuddy cares for their well-being. We do learn that Cuddy wants a husband and even proposes the idea to Briggs at one point later in the picture. It’s interesting to see what happens next, but that’s best left for the viewer to experience.

The Homesman is the kind of film that we don’t see much of anymore. There’s even a brief feature on this disc that discusses the western genre and pushing the boundaries of how it’s perceived. There’s a pretty surprising plot twist just as the third act begins that’ll likely upset some viewers. It really changes the film’s tone and its ultimate destination. While it took me by surprise, I did eventually warm up to it. Just when we think the story will be relatively straightforward and predictable, it throws us a curve-ball. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. Jones does a great job of keeping a steady pace carefully not rushing the story, but also not allowing it to slow down too much. It also helps that not only he, but Hilary Swank give two excellent performances. I remained reasonably involved with the story and these characters. The film might not be for everyone, but fans of the western genre should find more than enough enjoyment here. There are also supporting roles from James Spader, Meryl Streep and John Lithgow, to name a few. The film earns my recommendation.

Video: How’s it look?

The western genre typically lends itself nicely to the HD format. I often look forward to viewing one almost specifically for that very reason. Of course it helps if the film itself is worthwhile, but just something about an open landscape nicely presented in HD goes far. We get an AVC encoded image with a 2.40:1 ratio. Jones has certainly aged considerably, and that roughness shown on his face is really heightened here. The print is free of flaws and other debris and what not. As mentioned, the open Nebraska setting is nicely displayed here. Fans will be pleased.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD track might not be very robust, but it serves the film as it should. This isn’t an action film by any means, so don’t expect tons of background usage. Vocals, however, remained strong and clear throughout, and there was some nice background details here and there. Like the transfer, this track satisfies.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Origins – This gives us the rundown of how the film came about. It’s fairly interesting.
  • Shooting the Film – We get a glimpse of how the film was shot (On location) as well as other tidbits.
  • Beyond the Western – This feature gives us a look at how this film pushes things beyond the confines of the western genre. I found this feature to be the most interesting of the three.
  • Digital Copy
  • Previews

The Bottom Line

I can’t say I was expecting much from this film, but it surprised me in many ways. Swank and Jones both give great performances on top of the strong direction. The film earns my recommendation. It might not be for everyone, but it worked its way on me.

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