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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Detective > Mystery > Murder > Counterculture > Politics > Neo-Noir > Literature > Inherent Vice (2014/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)

Inherent Vice (2014/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B+/C+ Sound: B/C+ Extras: C- Film: B

Too raw and cutting edge for the awards crowd, Paul Thomas Anderson's film of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice (2014) is one of the best films of the past year with Joaquin Phoenix (one of the best actors around) is private eye 'Doc' Sportello, a hippie in 1970 Los Angeles who takes as many drugs as the majority who are not PIs until an old flame (Katherine Waterston) shows up concerned about being pulled into a fraud scheme to dupe a billionaire that she knows will only lead to trouble. Doc takes on the case, but it turns out to be far more involved than he could have ever imagined, even with his psychedelic drug mindset.

He then has to deal with a frienemy cop (Josh Brolin), Neo-Nazis, the FBI, greedy businessmen, privatization opportunists, cults, hippie chicks, the past, his own drug-induced delusions, eccentrics from all over and LAPD not suffering the counterculture gladly in this neo-Noir that totally grasps detective films from the 1940 and 1950s, but also understands Polanski's Chinatown (1974) and especially Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973). Anderson is an unabashed Altman fan and shows how well he grasps his work yet again in this long, but more than justifiably long film at an always interesting 2.5 hours. It is one of those too-rare cases these days where you get more film for your money.

For mystery fans, the case adds up and works, suspense and all, but Anderson is also interested in the time period, character development, realism, chemistry, some politics, the natural humor of the situation, irony and layers of absurdity that ultimately makes this an exercise in pure cinema. I might not have been as happy with the ending, the one missed opportunity here, but was very pleasantly surprised with how rich and consistent the film was by a filmmaker in top form; one of the best around today. Like the best films of any era, Inherent Vice is not just a movie, it is an experience and one worth your time and attention.

When you add the terrific supporting cast that includes Owen Wilson, Joanna Newsom, Benicio Del Toro, Maya Rudolph, Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, Keith Jardine, Eric Roberts and Martin Short along with some really good work from new faces we will hopefully see again, the film deserves to be the huge hit on home video it should have been in theaters.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is exceptional and one of the best I have seen for a new film not shot in a large frame film format (like an IMAX film or Anderson's previous gem, The Master, which originated on 65mm negative film) all thanks to Anderson's longtime Director of Photography Robert Elswit, A.S.C., whose use of Kodak Vision 3 35mm negative films are often stunning, offers a superior use of color throughout and the Blu-ray disc offers constant high quality demo shots.

Elswit also shot one of the other truly underrated films of 2014, Nightcrawler (reviewed elsewhere on this site) continuing to be one of the greatest cameramen in the world. He also lenses his share of commercial films (Tomorrow Never Dies, Salt, The Bourne Legacy, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) in some of the best blockbuster work around, yet excels on more challenging film like this. The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is passable, but far behind the amazing Blu-ray.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is well recorded, mixed and presented, but the great Jonny Greenwood (of the brilliant band Radiohead) adds another smart music score and when you add the interesting choice of hit records from the period, you've got an ace of a mix. This has more than its share of talk, so it cannot take total advantage of the multi-channel possibilities all the time, yet the soundfield is top rate and impressive. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is not bad, but not great and not representative of how good the soundmaster really is.

The only extras are Digital HD copy and four clips used to promote the film, which is a shame because there is so much more to say and show on this gem. Interviews were done, for instance, so why are they not here?

- Nicholas Sheffo


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