DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Alberto Arvelo
Édgar Ramírez, Erich Wildpret, María Valverde, Danny Huston
Writing Credits:
Timothy J. Sexton

Simon Bolivar fought over 100 battles against the Spanish Empire in South America. He rode over 70,000 miles on horseback. His military campaigns covered twice the territory of Alexander the Great. His army never conquered -- it liberated.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Spanish/English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish/English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 3/10/2015

• Introduction by Gustavo Dudamel
• “Making of” Featurette
• Previews and Trailer
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Liberator [Blu-Ray] (1933)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 8, 2015)

With 2014’s The Liberator, we find a historical/miltary drama. The film opens in Bogota on September 25, 1828 and shows us Simon Bolivar (Édgar Ramírez) as he escapes an assassination attempt.

After that quick intro, the story heads back to Madrid circa the year 1800 to introduce us to Bolivar as a 17-year-old. He interacts in high society and eventually marries Maria Theresa (María Valverde).

They return to his home in Venezuela, where Bolivar chafes under the cruel hand of the Spaniards who run the country. However, he chooses not to fight against this and enjoys his time with Maria Theresa – until she develops an illness and dies.

Back in Europe, Bolivar drowns his sorrows in a hedonistic lifestyle but eventually finds himself pushed to take action. He returns to Venezuela to lead a rebellion against Spain, one that spreads across South America. We follow these threads as we see Bolivar’s path to greatness.

Given that it covers about three decades, Liberator threatens to bite off more than it can chew, and it often feels superficial. Movies like this tend toward a “greatest hits” feel, and that impression comes through during the flick’s 119 minutes, as it simply lacks the space to investigate its subject matter with adequate depth.

This means we get tastes of Bolivar’s life and career but not much more. Liberator touches on various topics in a brisk manner that limits insight, so by the end, we feel like we have a “Cliff’s Notes” version of his existence. Though we may know more about Bolivar than we did at the start, we don’t get a great sense for his personality or actions beyond the basics.

As an introduction, Liberator works okay, and I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who will enter with a woeful lack of awareness about Bolivar. Let’s face it: South American history doesn’t get a lot of play in US schools, so if you don’t seek out information about Bolivar, you’re unlikely to know much about him. I like the notion that Liberator may prompt viewers to learn more.

Unfortunately, the movie itself remains somewhat flat and thin. Part of that comes from the superficiality I already mentioned, but I think Ramirez’s lead performance turns into a minor issue as well.

While not bad, I feel Ramirez lacks range in the role. Happy Bolivar, Sad Bolivar, Defiant Bolivar, Angry Bolivar – they all look a lot alike, as Ramirez rarely manages to provide more depth to the part. It probably doesn’t help that he can’t even vaguely pass for a teenager, which creates a strange disconnect in the movie’s earlier moments – he doesn’t really look his age until the flick’s end, honestly.

The basic story of Liberator means that it manages to keep our attention, but I think that the source material deserves a more in-depth exploration. While Liberator looks good and tells an important historical tale, it fails to pop off the screen like it should.

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

The Liberator appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a satisfying presentation.

Sharpness consistently appeared strong. Despite a handful of slightly soft shots, the majority of the movie delivered concise, accurate images. I noticed no issues with jaggies or moiré effects, and the picture lacked edge haloes or digital issues. Print flaws also failed to appear in this clean transfer.

Apparently orange and teal aren’t reserved for American movies, as they featured prominently in the Venezuelan-produced Liberator - though not to a ridiculous degree. This doesn’t become a Michael Bay movie, so while orange and teal shade the proceedings, they don’t dominate, and the colors seemed fine within those design choices. Blacks looked dark and tight, while shadows were smooth and clear. I felt pleased with the movie’s visuals.

While I like a lively soundtrack, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of Liberator overdid it. At virtually all times, the movie used the five channels in an active manner – too active, in my opinion, as the back speakers became a distraction. Sometimes these choices worked fine, such as during a thunderstorm; those elements filled the setting in a satisfying manner.

However, too much of the mix seemed to feature audio for audio’s sake, and these decisions could appear illogical. For instance, a beach scene offered roaring waves from the rear, even though that made no geographical sense since the ocean remained in front of the actors.

The soundscape did calm down at times, as quieter scenes didn’t overwhelm us with material. Nonetheless, the movie simply seemed hyperactive in terms of audio more often than it should, and that side of it became an issue for me.

Audio quality was mostly fine. Speech remained intelligible but showed some sibilance and could sound more “metallic” than I’d expect. Music showed good range and impact, while effects were accurate and full. If the mixers toned down the usage of the surrounds, this would’ve been a more satisfying track.

Created for a Los Angeles Film Festival screening, we find a one-minute, nine-second introduction from composer Gustavo Dudamel. It’s not especially interesting.

A Making Of featurette runs 41 minutes, three seconds and includes comments from Dudamel, extra Henry Iza, director Alberto Arvelo, writer Timothy Sexton, producers Winfried Hammacher and Ana Loehnert, production designer Paul Austerberry, costume designer Sonia Grande, art director Benjamin Fernandez, set decorator Philippe Turlure, construction manager Daniel Souto, cinematographer Xavi Gimenez, line producer Jose Luis Escolar, soloist Pedro Eustache, editing Tariq Anwar, sound designers Jay Nierenberg and Jonathan Wales, visual effects supervisor Rafael Solorzano, and actors Édgar Ramírez, Danny Huston, Maria Valberde, Imanol Arias, Elisa Sednaoui, Gary Lewis, Carlos Julio Molina, Juana Acosta, Erich Wildpret, Orlando Valenzuela, Alejandro Furth, and Iwan Rheon.

The show looks at story/character/historical areas, the project’s development and path to the screen, locations, cast and performances, set, costume and visual design, cinematography, music, sound design, visual effects and editing. This turns into a fairly good look at the film, as it uses its 41 minutes well. We get a nice overview of important production issues and learn a reasonable amount along the way.

The disc opens with ads for Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles, That Man From Rio and Jamaica Inn. We also find the trailer for Liberator.

The set finishes with a booklet. It features some credits and photos but lacks any essays or additional information.

Despite a compelling historical narrative, The Liberator fails to become a consistently compelling drama. It comes with good moments but lacks enough depth to make it work. The Blu-ray presents satisfying picture but demonstrates erratic audio and lacks many bonus materials. If you want a quick glimpse at the life of Simon Bolivar, you may like Liberator, but I think it remains somewhat lackluster.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main