After a devastating riding accident, a young girl and her beloved horse are left with serious physical and emotional scars. When her mother calls on the “Horse Whisperer” to help, she meets a rugged rancher who not only has an extraordinary gift with animals, but also an ability to enrich the lives of people around him.
This movie is amazing. It's one of those films where you understand what it's trying to do, but it still touches you with a tinge of surprise with the end result. What's remarkable is that most of us can relate to Grace (Scarlett Johansson), who is the young girl in the film that suffers the fateful tragic beginning. Grace has to deal with losing her leg in the accident, as well as losing her best friend. Johansson is nothing short of amazing when she creates this deeply embedded fear, which prevents her from getting her life where it was again. We've all been in her situation, maybe not the exact same situation -- but one that scars us for life, and she shows us the same steps literally and figuratively on how to get back on the horse again. Grace's progression, thanks to a very well played role by Johansson, is an easy sell to the audience because of this.
With that said, Robert Redford does a magnificent job with balancing out the recovery time of Grace and the horse that his character, Tom Booker, is trying to bring back from emotional scarring. The pace of the film is slow and methodical, but it would haven't been as intriguing if the story didn't take its time repairing both Grace and the horse. You can't make this a quick fix, as you positively need to sell the audience on how devastating the first event in the film truly is. Redford knew and understood that and, more importantly, executed that brilliantly.
In other words, it's a long film (as most people who have seen it will tell you), but the trip is worth it towards the end.
The issue that most critics had, and I understand this to be true after watching the film is that the side story of Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her love for Tom is very much out of place i this movie. It was the square peg that didn't fit in the round hole, but it was forced. While I understand the need to take this workaholic mother and create some distance between her, her husband and daughter, the end result is pretty bad. The story seems to deliver an empty emotional moment with Annie. You don't like her at the beginning; you don't like her at the end. She has some strange need to attach herself to Tom, as he is more of a powerful figure in comparison to her husband (Sam Neill). It's a very confusing, awkward part of the story that just could have been cut out. I haven't read the novel, so it might be important, but the film just didn't have time to develop it properly. I would have rather seen more focus on Grace with some built up resentment between her and Annie.
There are a dozen ways it could have worked out, but the way it did work out really didn't help the movie. In fact, it hurt the film.
Anyway, if you ignore this portion of the movie and just focus on Grace and the horse then you're going to love the movie. It's quite brilliant in that respect.
Now, as for the Blu-ray, you're in for a visual treat. You probably knew that there are a lot of green pastures to see in this movie (there are), so it's no surprise there are plenty of moments where the HD shines. Specifically, during the horse's recover in the film, you get a lot of lush green, crisp yellow and blue and plenty of visually appealing moments. The compression and treatment of the original film was done well. It deserved the extra love, and it shows. There is no graininess in the picture, no compression issues or artifacts. It's one of the best cheap releases on Blu-ray. If you liked the book then you will want this in HD since it's very comparable in price to DVD. It's worth the extra few dollars.
The audio is mastered in 5.1 DTS-HD and the aspect ratio of the film is 2.35:1. You will get some black bars, but the picture is still nice.
Finally, here's what you're getting in terms of special features:
- Production Featurette
- Robert Redford Featurette
- Buck Brannanman Featurette
- Music Video
I've always been a fan of featurettes ruling the special features section of any Blu-ray or DVD release, and this doesn't disappoint. Very strong, informative featurettes that compliment the film quite well. You get a bit more insight into the making of the film, as well as information about Buck Brannanman, who was the inspiration for the character of Tom Booker. The only thing that would have been nicer in this list is audio commentary from Redford. These are some strong features, though.