Big Blue, The (UK - BD RB)
Marcus holds his breath as he takes another trip to the ocean with Besson
With a passion for the sea from an early age, Jacques Mayol’s (Jean-Marc Barr) life has him continually drawn to its beauty. Mayol gets invited to take part in old friend (and current world champion) Enzo Molinari’s (Jean Reno) current deep sea diving competition. Followed by smitten love interest Johana (Rosanna Arquette), we see Mayol casually take part against his very competitive friend Enzo as they reach depths that not only break records, but are devastating for the human body.
The Big Blue is about as casual a movie as they come, especially considering the high tension sport that sits at the centre of the story. Besson introduces us to characters like Enzo and Johana, who are almost comic book in their large, impulsive personalities and still manages to pull off a calming, thoughtful almost serene mood, thanks in large part to Jean-Marc Barr’s performance as Jacques Mayol.
Barr’s character is so intriguing, so internal and so much the heart of the piece. This largely slow paced movie could have got lost in the world of depths and records but instead is a much more spiritual journey, especially in the scenes where he’s under the water and we know that there’s the draw for him just to give into it.
The scenes where Mayol is diving into the depths and casually waiting to rise back to the surface, even when part of a competition, play fantastically against the tension and anticipation on the surface for his return. His fascination and passion for giving himself over to the sea is captured astonishingly well for a character who is mostly silent and his final decision in the movie works because of this, despite that fact it’s an insane one.
I wasn’t always so hot on the rest of the story, despite having a lot of fun with Jean Reno’s performance and enjoying Arquette’s cuteness. Sometimes the story dragged its feet a little too much and with scenes where Mayol has more fun swimming with a dolphin all night than he does getting intimate with Johana, I found myself wondering if he had a condition as opposed to a passion, which by movies end certainly appears to be the case.
The Big Blue is a grand experience that juggles many of its elements well. It’s a fine sports movie, yet a very human experience as well. It has a lot of magic to it and characters that are three dimensional and most of all believable. For me the last few scenes didn’t feel quite as controlled or paced as what came before them but I understood the sentiment of the events, so am willing to let the minor qualms I have slide and see how I feel about it again on a later viewing.
This was a great transfer for the most part. When the hot sun beats down on the characters and the light sparkles off of the vast ocean around them, the transfer glows and is packed with a nice level of detail. Skin texture and hair can look fantastic in the right setting and the small details in rocks and beaches can really show off the greatness of HD.
However, it’s not all lit by the sun and when the sun goes down or the divers disappear under the ocean, the transfer begins to show its cracks. Grain levels increase and shadowing can cause a slightly murky feel to things (and not just under the sea). None of this is overly offensive and certainly not enough to write the transfer off but there is quite a large divide in quality between indoor and outdoor scenes.
Many of the underwater scenes suffer the same way that Besson's Atlantis did, in that they look totally fine with their multiple tones of blue but when compared to many a modern undersea documentaries they show their age and limitations, which in all honesty probably can’t be helped.
This is where it all gets a little bizarre as it’s the French dub version of The Big Blue. Originally shot in a bit of English, French and Italian, this version has most of the dialogue over dubbed in French (beside a few scenes in New York), which means lip-syncing can be a little distracting. Also on a side note (and via the information from my French speaking wife) most of the subtitles don't actually match the dialogue and I don’t mean slight changes but totally different, giving an ever so slightly dumbed down feel to the personal moments between characters.
Beyond that, the PCM 2.0 does a pretty fine job at creating a wide atmospheric track with a nice amount of bass and some clear (albeit dubbed and strange) dialogue. The score has quite a presence in the track and can sometime be a little overwhelming, which is more by design than because of a bad mix. Though it has to be said that there’s a track that pops up a few times that sounds exactly like Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ and I can’t work out whether it was distracting or I was just disappointed it didn’t burst into it every time.
Diving into the special feature (pun totally intended) we get the shorter theatrical cut of the movie (02:17:00 HD) and even a feature length documentary ‘L'Adventure du Grand Bleu’ (01:37:00 SD), which is so painfully standard definition you’ll be having VHS flashbacks. The documentary, made in 1989, is a fine combination of detail, video diary, personal insights and just great movie making techniques in an environment that just ain’t meant for filming. In all honesty, for fans of the movie this is probably reason enough to get hold of the disc even if some newcomers might find its pacing and style a little too loose in places.
Lastly, we have two original trailers both of which highlight how far we’ve come since the days of video in their quality and reminded me just how much I love trailers from this era.
The Big Blue isn’t a movie that totally won me over and I’m certainly not in a rush to watch it again, but I still very much enjoyed the spiritual journey that took place within the competition backdrop. I liked all three main performances and their interactions and I’m glad I’ve finally seen the movie, one that’s been on the ‘to watch’ list for what seems like forever.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 14th September 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo French
Extras: Feature Length Documentary, Theatrical Version, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette, Jean Reno
Length: 168 minutes
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