4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Diane Lane gives a powerful performance as Margaret Blackledge, grandmother to little Jimmy. She still grieves the accidental death of her son James, and her daughter-in-law Lorna has remarried and moved to North Dakota. Kevin Costner plays George Blackledge, a retired sheriff.
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“LET HIM GO”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2020; R for violence; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “The Making of ‘Let Him Go’” is one of three routine short features. Start there. (disc & digital)
THOMAS BEZUCHA overstates it, but only a little, when he likens “Let Him Go” to a Greek tragedy. Even co-star Kevin Costner says his character isn’t “an extraordinary
man, he’s a good man” who steps into the lion’s den because he loves his wife.
But Bezucha (“Big Eden”), who wrote and directed this tragic, compelling neo-Western, is on the money when he says it defies genres and that its “propulsive narrative” is grounded in redemption and deliverance. And it’s driven by Costner (Oscar winner for “Dances With Wolves”) and Diane Lane (nominee for “Unfaithful”), who play George and Margaret Blackledge.
This isn’t the first time they’ve shared the screen as a couple – they had supporting roles as Jonathan and Martha Kent in 2013’s “Man of Steel” and the 2016 dud “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” – and “play” hardly does their performances justice. Their chemistry is undeniable and commitment so absolute that you’re not just drawn into their story, set in the wide-open West of the early 1960s, you can’t turn away from its inevitable, shocking final act.
Blu-ray vs. 4K Ultra HD
(1) The Blu-ray is much brighter throughout. (2) The 4K/HDR toning replicates a more dramatic daybreak as George watches his son James work a horse.
(1) Margaret gives baby Jimmy a bath in the kitchen sink. (2) George finds his son James thrown from his horse. (3) Lorna (Kayi Carter) and her new husband Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain) leave Montana without giving Margaret and George an opportunity to say goodbye to little Jimmy. (4&5) Margaret and George pack up the station wagon and head to North Dakota to find Jimmy. Before leaving town they stop by their son’s gravesite. The Rockies in Alberta, Canada provide the perfect landscape.
George, a retired sheriff, and Margaret, who raises horses, share their Montana ranch with their son James (Ryan Bruce), daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter) and infant grandson Jimmy, an idyll that is shattered when James dies after he’s thrown by a horse.
As he does throughout, Bezucha defies expectations in the next scene: The Blackledges are getting ready for what apparently is James’ funeral, but the story has moved ahead three years and they’re dressing for Lorna’s marriage to Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), a marriage of convenience that is made clear when she turns her cheek to him as he tries to kiss her.
Margaret, still struggling with her grief, goes to visit them at their seedy apartment, only to watch, horrified, from the car when Donnie manhandles Jimmy because he dropped his ice cream cone then slaps Lorna. When George and Margaret later learn that he’s taken Lorna and Jimmy to the desolate, foreboding Weboy compound in North Dakota, Margaret, hellbent on bringing her grandson home, even if she has to go alone, packs the car.
Bezucha, cinematographer Guy Godfree (“Maudie”) and prolific composer Michael Giacchino (“Up”) quietly turn up the tension as the Blackledges leave Montana for North Dakota (Alberta, Canada, stands in for both) and get their first inkling of what awaits them, a suspicion that’s confirmed when they’re invited, ostensibly, to dinner.
(1) George and Margaret arrive in North Dakota. (2) They have a roadside dinner with Native American Peter Dragswolf (Booboo Stewart). (3) The Blackledge’s meet Bill Weboy (Jeffrey Donovan) who escorts them to the family compound for dinner.
Most folks steer clear of the Weboys, and for good reason: Blanche Weboy lords over her brother and sons and there isn’t a snowball’s chance of her standing down and letting anyone take Jimmy. With her bottle-blonde hair and fire engine-red nails, she’s as steely as Margaret is resolute, and British actor Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”) dives into the role. Blanche is scary-menacing.
It would be unfair to reveal what happens to George when the Weboys confront the Blackledges at their motel room or to spill the details when George, gravely injured but propelled by his love for Margaret, slips into the compound to get Jimmy and Lorna. Did you see Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” (1971)? Remember Dustin Hoffman’s trial by fire? Then you’ve got an idea.
Lane and Costner alone are worth the running time, but Bezucha, who adapted the 2013 novel by Larry Watson, takes a refreshing, economical approach to storytelling and has put together a solid supporting cast, especially Jeffrey Donovan as Blanche’s sinister brother Bill and Booboo Stewart as Peter Dragswolf, the young Native American loner who befriends the Blackledges. The ensemble’s commitment is no less than that of the stars.
(1) British actor Lesley Manville plays the firey Blanche Weboy who lords over her brother and sons. (2) She only gives Margaret two minutes with Jimmy. (3) Margaret tries to convince Lorna to move back to Montana. (4) A flashback scene when George had to put down Margaret’s favorite horse.
Godfree used the ARRI ALEXA Mini 3.4K digital camera (2.39:1 aspect ratio) housed with old school anamorphic lens to capture the quiet and moody visuals. Inspiration from Terrance Malick’s 1970s films “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven and well as Andrew Wyeth paintings. The 4K HDR toning is much darker – especially the mid-tones – than the HD version, adding to the Western noir.
Overall sharpness is up several clicks over the HD, and we’re not sure if it’s from a 4K master or just upconverted. But, when George stops by his son’s gravesite the distant wide shot provides more detail to read the grave markers.
The Blu-ray wins the audio battle over the digital, featuring the eight-channel uncompressed DTS-HD soundtrack. Digital is coded with the lesser six-channel Dolby Digital Plus. Both provide excellent fidelity with a slight edge to the DTS track, with Giacchino’s simple orchestrated score, that emphasizes the internal conflict, and bouncing to thriller and horror passages.
Universal didn’t exactly break the budget, tacking on three standard short features, none of them any great shakes. “The Making of ‘Let Him Go’” doesn’t dig deep, “The Blackledges” Kevin Costner & Diane Lane” piles up the hosannas (all of them justified, by the way) and “Lighting the Way: Thomas Bezucha” is over before it gets traction.
Maybe next time.
Fortunately, “Let Him Go” is that rare, adult drama that you won’t let go easily.
– Craig Shapiro and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1&2) The Weboy’s make a surprise visit to the Blackledge’s motel room and George ends up at the emergency room. (3&4) The explosive ending.