Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise remains a compelling and tragic crime drama about an outlaw duo escaping their mundane lives, a journey of independence and self-actualization through the beautiful deserts of Utah with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis delivering outstanding, memorable performances. Courtesy of The Criterion Collection, the film crashes into home theaters as a three-disc Ultra HD package with a beautiful 4K HDR presentation, a terrific DTS-HD MA soundtrack, and a healthy collection of supplements. Overall, the UHD package is Highly Recommended.
There's a moment in Thelma & Louise that perfectly encapsulates the heart of the narrative. While the two female leads are driving through a rocky desert terrain, Thelma (Geena Davis) suddenly turns to her best friend and partner in crime Louise (Susan Sarandon), and says, "I feel awake." At the beginning of the film, Thelma was seen as a very submissive but goofy housewife, a lonely woman who could only fantasize about escaping the humdrum chore of her controlled existence. Louise is somewhat the opposite, a hardworking waitress who appears confident and independent, but as things progress, we realize she's haunted by a traumatic past. For the story to work and deliver meaningful impact, it seems fitting that Thelma should announce their awakening.
Thelma & Louise is a marvelous film that struck a chord with audiences in 1991. Sitting comfortably as one of Ridley Scott's finest directorial efforts, the movie is a gender bender that places two strong female characters in the leads — roles commonly performed by men at the time. Written by Callie Khouri, who won an Oscar for her excellent script, the buddy road flick also crosses genre lines by mixing aspects of the crime vigilante films with outlaw-western elements. Much like the movie's two endearing and praised stars on a journey of self-actualization, audiences, too, are on unfamiliar ground with an adventure that features a woman in the driver's seat. What starts as a weekend vacation away from men, suddenly transforms into a desperate search for control of one's own life.
During its theatrical run, the film was wrongfully dismissed by some as a celebration of man-bashing and violence. However, nothing could be further from the truth because the film goes beyond the way men are depicted. The plot centers on the awakening of our two accidental heroines, of their bringing forth an inner desire to control their own lives. We see Thelma waiting on her demanding husband similar to the way Louise hustles and bustles on the job. From the moment the movie commences, the women are reminded that they are not living, but surviving within a society that objectifies them. Symbolically, their aspiring to escape this reality becomes a criminal act, as something forbidden.
If anything, the men of Thelma & Louise are shown as a complex group of varying personalities with none ever seen as a prominent, representative archetype. Three jerks are balanced with three good guys. Darryl (Christopher McDonald) is the pig who treats women as his personal servants and Harlan (Timothy Carhart) is arguably his violent, sadistic equivalent. The truck driver (Marco St. John), whose large, phallic-like 18-wheeler tanker trailer meets an explosive end, views women only as objects of sexual pleasure. Opposite them is a sympathetic detective (Harvey Keitel) who believes the women are the true victims of this chaotic mess. Jimmy (Michael Madsen) is Louise's boyfriend, a person who clearly loves her as she is. J.D. (Brad Pitt, in his breakout role) is a harmless criminal who serves as a catalyst for Thelma's transformation.
At the time of its release, Thelma & Louise stirred quite the controversy and garnered unwarranted criticism, along with accolades that took the nation on a bit of a ride. On one level, Ridley Scott's film is essentially a spectacle of feminist wish-fulfillment, a crime drama on the social injustices of women, but on a level that all audiences can share, the road trip is a moving tale about escaping social trappings, a tragic comedy that calls for living rather than surviving. The final, lasting image of our inspiring heroines with similar smiles as those photographed at the beginning is actually the climax. There is no logical resolution to this story because it would only take away from their memory. The best and most suitable ending for such a wild ride is to leave on a high point and never give in.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition of Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise comes courtesy of The Criterion Collection (spine #1180) as a three-disc combo pack. Housed in their familiar digipack with a side-sliding slipcover, the triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably on a clear-plastic panel while the opposing panel holds a pair of Region A locked, BD50 discs with one sitting atop the other. Accompanying the discs is a 33-page pamphlet with a trio of insightful essays providing a deeper analysis of the film. There are no trailers or promos before being greeted by the distributor's normal static menu screen and options.
According to the accompanying booklet, the folks at Criterion have granted the classic crime drama with a brand-new 4K remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, which was supervised and approved by Ridley Scott, and the results are simply astounding. The fresh HEVC H.265 encode flaunts significantly sharper and cleaner details than its 2011 Blu-ray predecessor, from the fine stitching interior of Louise's '66 Thunderbird to the threading of JD's straw cowboy hat. Granted, the transfer comes with its share of noticeably soft moments, which are to be expected considering its age and the cinematography style of the period. But the video shows remarkably better definition overall while being awash in a fine layer of natural grain, giving it a beautiful film-like quality that fans are sure to love.
Added to that, the Dolby Vision HDR presentation boasts a spot-on contrast and brightness balance, lavishing the action with crisp, radiant whites throughout, and specular highlights give the edges of clouds and metallic trim a tight, resplendent glow. Meanwhile, inky-rich blacks bathe the drama in deep, penetrating shadows, adding to its cinematic appeal that provides the 2.40:1 image with appreciable depth. The color palette is deliberately more subdued and controlled, favoring secondary earthy tones that better suit the gritty, western-style aesthetic of the plot. Nevertheless, primaries are fuller and more dynamic while the earthy browns, yellows and oranges have a richer boldness with more notable variation, and facial complexions appear healthier with rosier, peachier skin tones while exposing the smallest wrinkle, pore and negligible blemish in the entire cast. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 92/100)
The booklet also mentions that a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack was struck from that same aforementioned remaster, and it's a very satisfying high-rez track with a highly welcoming and wide, front-heavy soundstage that's full of warmth and pristine clarity. The well-prioritized vocals deliver appreciable tonality in the performances while movement between three front channels is seamless with convincing off-screen action and placement, generating an impressive sense of space. A beautifully-balanced imaging exhibits a superbly clean and extensive mid-range, maintaining amazing definition and separation, particularly in Hans Zimmer original score, and a hearty, responsive low-end provides a weighty presence to the music and action. Although a dialogue-driven film, the lossless presentation also comes with a few surprising and appreciable atmospherics that flawlessly pan into the sides, especially when applying the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, creating a wonderfully satisfying and immersive soundfield. (Audio Rating: 84/100)
The crime drama flies into 4K Ultra HD with a nice three-disc collection of supplements that are exclusive to this release while importing the same bonuses from the previous Blu-ray edition.
Ultra HD Disc
Blu-ray Disc 1
Blu-ray Disc 2
Thelma & Louise, one of the most talked about movies of the early 1990s, is a compelling and tragic crime drama about an outlaw duo escaping their mundane lives. Director Ridley Scott takes audiences on a journey of independence through the beautiful deserts of Utah with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis leading the charge. Courtesy of The Criterion Collection, the film crashes into home theaters on 4K Ultra HD with a beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a terrifically engaging DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Featuring a healthy collection of supplements, the overall UHD package is highly recommended.
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