Plot: What’s it about?
Ben Hood (Kevin Kline) is married with children, works at a good job, and lives in a nice suburban neighborhood. But his life isn’t serene as all that sounds, as beneath the surface, the tension is immense. His job has him under the gun, as one of his co-workers is pushing to take over his position, but Ben’s troubles don’t end at the office. His relationship with his wife Elena (Joan Allen) has turned platonic and loveless, though he turns to his neighbor Janey (Sigourney Weaver) for sexual release. Even then, he gets no real pleasure from the connection, leaving him with little to cherish in life. At the same time, his children have started to explore their own sexual escapades, so his household is in a state of chaos behind the scenes. Is there a chance for Ben to turn his life around, or is he doomed to a life colder than an ice storm?
The Ice Storm is a movie I could watch again and again, never bored for a second. The story is deep and complex, but the real draw for me are the characters, as well as the performances behind them. I think there is so much depth within these characters, I seem to pick up on new elements each time I watch. The interaction is superb, thanks to sharp writing and of course, some terrific performances. Kevin Kline is great here, as are Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Christina Ricci, and the rest of this gifted ensemble cast. All of the pieces just click together so well, regardless of which characters are put together, the result is a memorable scene or situation. I was thrilled to see this released as part of The Criterion Collection, as the movie is just superb and deserves this kind of lavish presentation. I cannot recommend The Ice Storm enough and this deluxe two disc release, Criterion’s treatment is the one you’ll want to go with.
Video: How does it look?
A new 2K transfer was used for this Blu-ray and while the 2008 DVD didn’t exactly look bad, this HD version ups the ante. Director Ang Lee and Director of Photography Frederick Elmes supervised this new transfer. Right off the bat, the detail was noticeable and it’s a very good thing, but I also noticed that the contrast seems turned down a bit and while it doesn’t look bad, it does tend to give the movie a rather inconsistent look and feel. Colors are bright and bold, despite the film being set in the 70’s where browns, oranges and more earthy tones seemed to dominate. This is an improvement over the 2008 DVD, but it’s not on par with some of Criterion’s other titles or some of the newer released films to Blu-ray.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DVD had a 2.0 stereo track and this has a new DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 option. Granted this is about as dialogue-driven as they come, but it’s an improvement over the previous option. The tense atmosphere is bolstered by skillful sound design, especially in terms of the movie’s musical soundtrack. The dialogue is clear and crisp at all times, which is good since the movie is driven by the vocals and little else. So in the end, a better soundtrack than I anticipated.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As is the case with a lot of Criterion’s discs, this is merely a re-issue of the previously-available material that was present on the DVD. We start out with the film’s theatrical trailer, as well as audio comments from director Ang Lee and producer/co-writer James Schamus. You can tell the two have a strong personal bond, as they’re candid and work off each other well. I found this to be a good overall session with some great insights. Not the best track I’ve heard, but a more than solid one and if you enjoyed the movie, make sure to give the track a spin. Lee and Schamus return on the second disc in an interview for New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, which runs around half an hour. The two cover Lee’s career as a whole, so there isn’t much time devoted to The Ice Storm, but its still a welcome inclusion. Weathering the Storm is a thirty-five minute retrospective look at The Ice Storm, with several prominent cast & crew members interviewed. Not as in depth as we might like, but still informative. This release also includes an interview with author Rick Moody, a trio of brief production featurettes, and a small selection of deleted scenes.