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Sean Penn
Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Jean Reno, Jared Harris
Writing Credits:
Erin Dignam

International aid workers in Africa fight for humanity during civil unrest.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 131 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 9/5/2017

• “Picturing The Last Face” Featurette
• Previews


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The Last Face [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 14, 2017)

Actor Sean Penn steps behind the camera for his fifth directorial effort: 2017’s The Last Face. Decades ago, Wren Peterson’s (Charlize Theron) father created a humanitarian group called “Doctors of the World”, and she continues his legacy as a physician who helps the needy in impoverished domains.

In 2003, Wren takes an assignment to West Africa, where she meets Miguel Leon (Javier Bardem), another doctor on a mission there. The two fall in love and experience complications as they attempt a relationship in difficult circumstances.

No matter how long I live, I’ll never get used to the sight of “A”-level talent submerged in movies that go direct to video. How is it possible that a film directed by an Oscar-winner – albeit for acting - that stars two more Oscar-winners can’t muster a theatrical run? Clearly this exists as a sign the studio had little confidence in the film’s commercial appeal, but it still surprises me.

Now that I’ve actually seen Face, I feel less perplexed about its fate. Booed by viewers at Cannes, it delivers a slow, dull cinematic journey.

Penn appeared in two Terrence Malick movies, and based on Face, these experiences rubbed off on him. Rather than attempt a real narrative, Penn often adopts a Malick feel, with many long, languid visuals that serve little narrative purpose.

These extend the movie to an extreme, as Face struggles to flesh out its overblown 131-minute running time. The film lacks real purpose, so it ambles and meanders and plods as it winds its way toward its finale.

Penn also seems more eager to make a political statement than to tell a story. He imbues the film with strong social commentary, but he does so in such a condescending, pedantic manner that his choices flop. Face often feels more like an infomercial to ask for donations than an actual movie.

Penn does delve into the Wren/Miguel romance more and more as the film progresses, but these choices don’t succeed. Saddled with terrible dialogue and flat characters, Theron and Bardem show surprisingly little chemistry, so their love affair fails to ignite.

I’m not sure Face deserved to be booed by moviegoers, but I can understand the sentiment. A waste of talent, the movie lacks purpose and cohesion.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D

The Last Face appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a solid presentation.

Overall sharpness looked good. A few slivers of softness crept into a smattering of wide shots, but most of the movie offered nice clarity and delineation. I saw no signs of moiré effects or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes and source defects.

Colors usually went with standard orange and teal, but a few other hues materialized as well – especially when we got intense reds during some war scenes. The Blu-ray depicted these tones in a rich, full manner.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, while low-light shots demonstrated nice smoothness and clarity. I felt pleased with this high-quality image.

Though not as good, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack still worked well – better than anticipated, actually. This stemmed from the occasional warfare scenes, as those filled the channels with active, involving material.

Most of the movie went with a more restrained soundscape, though, and that seemed fine given the story’s scope. Music showed nice stereo presence and the track manifested an appropriate sense of environment within its character-focused confines.

Audio quality satisfied, as speech seemed accurate and natural. Music was lively and taut, while effects offered strong range and punch – especially during those louder war sequences. This wound up as a pretty good track.

Picturing The Last Face runs 10 minutes, 51 seconds and offers notes from producers Bill Pohlad, Matt Palmeri and Bill Gerber, production designer Andrew Laws, executive producer John Kutper, and costume designer Diana Cilliers. The show examines attempts to accurately reproduce the situations depicted as well as the story, research, cast/performances, locations and Sean Penn’s impact as director. “Picturing” offers a perfunctory overview of the subject matter.

The disc opens with ads for The Impossible, The Whole Truth, Come and Find Me, The Hunter’s Prayer and The Assignment. No trailer for Face appears here.

Despite a strong array of talent involved, The Last Face goes nowhere. It feels more like a lecture about underprivileged societies than an attempt to tell a coherent story. The Blu-ray offers solid picture and audio but it skimps on supplements. The movie winds up as a sluggish disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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