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Julian Jarrold
Toby Jones, Kim Cattrall, Andrea Riseborough
Sarah Phelps

The hunt is on to find the murderer of a wealthy glamorous heiress who is found dead in her London townhouse.
Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 4/25/2017

• 7 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
• 4 “On Location” Featurettes
• 6 “Character Introductions”
• Previews


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 Witness for the Prosecution [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2017)

Based on Agatha Christie’s short story, 2016’s The Witness for the Prosecution provides a TV adaptation. The film takes us to London circa 1923, where someone murders wealthy middle-aged widow Emily French (Kim Cattrall).

When discovered, all signs point to guilt for Leonard Vole (Billy Howle), a younger man Emily paid to be her lover. Vole protests his innocence and relies on the abilities of solicitor John Mayhew (Toby Jones) to save his bacon, though Mayhew’s obsession with Vole’s girlfriend Romaine Heilger (Andrea Riseborough) complicates matters.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I got the impression that the Agatha Christie name still acted as a good draw. Various big-screen adaptations kept Christie in the public consciousness and maintained an audience for her work.

I’m not so sure that’s still the case, as it seems like the Christie cult has declined over the decades. Whether or not my perceptions are accurate, I was interested to see Witness and get a feel for how Christie’s work holds up in the 21st century.

In this case, I find it hard to answer that question, as Witness tries so desperately to update the material that it harpoons the project’s overall impact. Whatever positives the source boasts as a mystery/thriller end up submerged underneath a slew of heavy-handed cinematic choices.

Make no mistake: Witness suffers from a serious case of “Tries Too Hard Syndrome”. It badly wants to be more than “just” a murder mystery – it attempts to become an erotic thriller and a social commentary on the impact of war, too.

That’s all well and good, and perhaps other filmmakers could’ve pulled off that feat, but in this instance, Witness becomes a pretentious mess. Packed with pointlessly moody photography and plot/character choices without substance, the movie eliminates any real intrigue.

Again, I don’t object to any attempts to update the material. After all, Witness provides a more than 90-year-old story already adapted numerous times, so the filmmakers’ desire to give the tale new twists makes perfect sense.

The problem comes from the nature of these choices, as they do nothing other than obscure the story’s positives. All those stylized cinematographic techniques quickly become a distracting bore, and they do little more than accentuate the absence of substance at heart.

How can someone screw up such a simple story? Witness comes with the requisite “whodunnit?” twists and turns, but it doesn’t tell an especially complicated tale.

Which is where the problems arise, as the screenplay attempts to add layers of “meaning” and nuance to a pretty basic mystery. Again, these could work in theory, but in reality, they feel artificial and contrived.

In the end, Witness just winds up as a mess. Packed with pointless stylistic conceits but without a sense of meaning or purpose, the movie delivers a drab drama.

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

The Witness for the Prosecution appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an oddly erratic presentation.

Sharpness acted as one of the inconsistent elements, for definition varied. Parts of the film offered solid clarity, but other shots looked soft and indistinct. Though I suspect some of this stemmed from cinematographic choices, these decisions made little sense and left the image as strangely soft at times.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and the movie lacked edge haloes. Source flaws also failed to create problems.

In another perplexing production choice, Witness opted for a heavily teal palette that leaned toward the green side of that coin. These colors tended to be murky and grungy.

Blacks were somewhat inky, and low-light shots seemed too dense, partly due to the prominent use of smoke effects that rendered shadows a little tough to see. The movie offered a less than pleasing visual presentation.

I thought the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was more consistent but still not memorable. This didn’t surprise me, though, as a character drama such as Witness wouldn’t offer a lot of room for sonic fireworks.

Some flashbacks to warfare provided the most dynamic moments, as those filled the five channels in a fairly impactful manner. Otherwise, general environmental information dominated and created a decent sense of place. Music also used the spectrum in a positive manner.

Audio quality was good. Music seemed full and rich, while effects came across as accurate and appropriately dynamic. Speech appeared concise and natural, and all of this added up to a satisfactory soundtrack.

As we shift to extras, we start with seven Behind the Scenes Featurettes. We locate “From Page to Screen” (24:15), “Postwar Fashion” (11:17), “Anatomy of a Murder” (2:34), “What Makes Christie Resonate Today?” (8:23), “Filming on the Front” (9:50), “Sarah Phelps’ WWI Story” (1:41) and “The Cast on Agatha Christie” (2:34).

Across these, we hear from Agatha Christie Ltd. Chief Executive Hilary Strong, writer Sarah Phelps, Agatha Christie Ltd. chairman James Prichard, producer Colin Wratten, director Julian Jerrold, costume designer Claire Anderson, hair/makeup designer Samantha Marshall, and actors Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, Hayley Carmichael, Dorian Lough, Monica Dolan, Billy Howle and Kim Cattrall.

The featurettes cover the source and its adaptation, story/characters, cast and performances, costume and hair/makeup, Agatha Christie’s legacy, locations and production design, and effects. The clips vary in quality but overall offer a decent look at the production – albeit one a little heavy on praise for different elements.

Four On Location Featurettes follow, and we find “The Theatre” (2:58), “The Courtroom” (3:24), “Le Touquet (The Sea)” (2:15) and “Liverpool” (4:52). These offer notes from Wratten, Jarrold, Jones, Carmichael, Howle and Cattrall. As expected, we get info about the locations used in the film. The clips mix facts and fluff.

Finally, we locate six Character Introductions. We see “Kim Cattrall on Emily French” (2:08), “Monica Dolan on Janet McIntyre” (0:53), “Toby Jones on John Mayhew” (0:36), “Billy Howle on Leonard Vole” (1:11), “Hayley Carmichael on Alice Mayhew” (0:41) and “Andrea Riseborough on Romaine Heilger” (0:59).

As expected, each one features an actor who discusses his/her role. These offer brief and not very useful chats.

The disc opens with an ad for And Then There Were None and Close to the Enemy.

Rather than focus on the mystery/thriller elements at its core, The Witness for the Prosecution opts to become a heavily stylized psychodrama. This choice doesn’t work, as the movie lacks substance and feels ineffective and tawdry. The Blu-ray presents erratic picture quality as well as decent audio and a passable set of bonus materials. I hoped to find an engaging “whodunnit’ from Witness but instead I got a tedious exploration of bad filmmaking choices.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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