Antebellum follows a woman who is seemingly in two time periods. One is where she's a slave during the Civil War, and one is in the present-day where she is a successful author. As the film goes on, more people are out to get her where the two "time-lines" collide in a truly disappointing climax twist. The film isn't bad though, as it comes with phenomenal performances and some superb camerawork. There is an impressive 4K image with Dolby Vision and a killer Dolby Atmos track, along with some hefty worthwhile bonus features. Recommended.
With the success of Jordan Peele's phenomenal film Get Out, Lionsgate Films has delivered Antebellum, a movie with similar tones and themes and some added elements that slide it in a different direction with a phenomenal cast including Janelle Monae, Jena Malone, and Jack Huston. The movie has some good ideas but with first-time directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz behind the camera and penning the screenplay, the story implodes in on itself and would rather stick a twist ending perfectly than dive into the intense subject matter in a subtle and clever way like Jordan Peele did with Get Out.
Antebellum can't be discussed without bringing up its viral theatrical trailer that had the world buzzing after its release. That trailer showed a woman who may or may not be traveling through time from slavery during the Civil War and present-day America. This caused a lot of talk amongst literary fans with this trailer evoking the story of Octavia Butler's 1979 time-travel novel Kindred about a slave. This is NOT the case with Antebellum as it is more in line with Tarantino's Django Unchained and Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, but told in two very different sections.
The first half of the film is set during the Civil War era on a plantation where cruelty, torture, sexual assault, and murder are common occurrences against its slaves. The focus is on a woman by her unchosen name Eden (Janelle Monae) who is consistently beaten and branded, amongst other atrocities. The plantation she is on is harsh, brutal, and unforgiving as she and others try to escape. That is until halfway through the film, Eden is in her cabin and hears a mobile phone ring - waking Eden up in the modern present-day city. She is NOT Eden, but rather Veronica (Monae), a successful author, and sociologist gearing up for a national book tour, leaving her family at home for a few months. This is where Get Out shows its influence on Antebellum where Veronica hangs out with some friends and has some uncomfortable chats with some nonchalant racism that is not overt at first but is still as painful.
Bush and Renz do an expert job in relaying the disappointing and maddening correlation of slavery and racism from the Civil War to modern-day interactions that seem harmless but are anything but that. Things get extremely turbulent and dicey for Veronica as the people she interacts with are not who they seem, which culminates into a completely over-the-top and non-sensical surprise twist that negates almost everything that came before it. Both Renz and Bush are experts at their craft behind the camera with some technical marvels throughout the film, including a great horseback chase sequence and weaving both timelines together with important allegorical symbolism.
It's the big surprise reveal that completely and utterly fumbled the entire plot that doesn't make a lick of sense on so many levels, where it seemed that the filmmakers were only interested in conveying the climax instead of providing ample and significant character development and drama. There is a bit of the horror genre spliced in from time to time in the form of gore and killing, something Get Out was able to do without and had a much bigger impact. Antebellum, unfortunately, falls off its trail into the foolish and absurd realm, despite some wonderful performances.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Antebellum escapes its way to 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital from Lionsgate with a two-disc set. The discs are housed in a hard, black, plastic case with a cardboard sleeve feature artwork of Janelle Monae with the red bloody butterfly. There is an insert for the digital code as well.
Antebellum comes with a 4K 2160p UHD transfer in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Vision. This 4K presentation is a good uptick from the 1080p Blu-ray version with a great color palette and strong detail.
This color palette is earthy and warm for most of the film. During exterior shots outside, there is a great mixture of green pastures and vegetation, brown tree bark and dirt, and crystal clear blue skies making for a pleasant outdoor experience. Interiors tend to lean towards a warmer setting with tons of beiges, browns complete with an amber color tint that is used stylistically throughout the film. The color red pops vibrantly as well whether it be a striking red dress or lipstick. The Dolby Vision enhancement brings out the many shades of green and orange tones perfectly in the lower lit sequences, which there are quite a bit of. The last few minutes of the film brings the image down to a cooler picture with a bluish-green aurora that looks amazing. The black levels are inky and rich and the skin tones are almost always natural when under perfect conditions.
The detail is fairly sharp and vivid revealing intimate details on the actor's faces including beads of sweat, facial pores, lines, wrinkles, wounds, scars, and individual hairs. The many creases of the waxy red lipstick look incredible. Textures in clothing and on the plantation fields look exquisite too. Wider shots are never soft with the exception of when film grain is present, but that seems to be a stylistic choice. Speaking of the film grain, there are certain scenes where the grain is rampant, specifically in darker lit sequences steeped in amber which was most likely used to enhance the grittiness and harshness of the particular sequence. This can be misconstrued as a super noisy looking image, but it's just the style the filmmaker used. Lastly, there are no major instances of any video issues of note that makes this 4K viewing experience a worthy upgrade above the Blu-ray version.
This release comes with a fantastic sounding Dolby Atmos track with wonderful atmospherics, a killer music score, and some boastful sound effects. Those sound effects are robust and loud, whether they be horse hoofs galloping, a sinister crack of a whip, or the modern noises of society taking place in the city. All of these noises are well-balanced and dynamic that transition through the speakers smoothly and with ease.
The ambient noises of the plantation life of animals in the background, people working in the field, and others talking sound excellent in the surrounds, as does the busy life of vehicles driving by in the city. The height speakers bring to life some airplanes passing overhead and some of the intense musical cues that conjure up some suspense. The low-end packs a good punch too with these musical elements and especially during the climax of the film. Dialogue is clean and easy to follow and free of any audio problems.
The bonus features add up to around 89 minutes of bonus content, including a hefty making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and more. Both the 4K and Blu-ray discs included these extras.
Antebellum at its core is a good film with some stellar performances, along with some excellent camerawork. Its fatal flaw though is its story, specifically its twist and reveal that negates almost everything that came before it, raising a ton of logical questions about its characters and plot. There's a great story here with some truly significant and poignant themes that are lightly touched on, but the filmmakers were more concerned with that twist than exploring these themes. Still, with a great 4K image and remarkable Dolby Atmos track, along with some excellent extras - this one is Recommended!