Changing Lanes (US - BD)
Gabe checks over his shoulder, uses his turn signal, then causes a pile up...
Up and coming power attorney Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) needs to get to the court house right now with a power of appointment to file. Meanwhile, down and out divorcee Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) needs to get to the court house right now to gain partial custody of his children. When Gavin changes lanes without looking, he and Doyle crash. Doyle’s car is totalled, and in his furious rush Gavin leaves him on the side of the road to miss his hearing. But in the commotion Gavin drops the power of appointment, and Doyle picks it up with nothing left to lose.
Changing Lanes is swimming with coincidence and tragic irony. What it isn’t swimming in is impossibility. There’s a lot of implausibility, but nothing happens that’s so positively unbelievable that the audience has to crank their suspension of disbelief to what I call Transformers-levels (things happen too quickly and too easily, but they aren’t total impossibilities). This is important because the film is based in reality, and very dependent on the continuously unfolding plot. Problems arise from the occasional heavy-handedness of the drama. The film is built entirely upon the merits of its strong script, and some aspects might have read better on the page than it does on the screen.
The best and most consistent aspect of the entire film is the editing. The life events of the two leads are impressively cut together in ways that both contrast and equate them. There’s one particularly well cut sequence in which Affleck is basically accosted by his wife during a quiet lunch. The emotionally violent scene is inter-cut with Jackson shopping for particularly violent looking hardware. The palpability of the impending carnage is crisp. Overall the film flows with a dexterity that overcomes unnecessary sub-plotting. Sure, the acting is pretty top notch, but it’s really the editing that keeps the overwrought bits from taking over.
Changing Lanes is shot largely handheld, and uses the wide 2.35 ratio, so there’s not a lot of control to the look outside of lighting, and the framing of a few dialogue scenes. The film is mostly shot drably, with muted colours, and hazy blue tinting, but the increase in brightness allows for some fun visual cues, specifically the titular red file folder, which stands out harshly against the backdrops. The details are sharp in close-up, but kind of fuzzy in medium and far shots. There is an inconsistency to the transfer’s overall cleanliness, and it appears to have nothing in particular to do with filming conditions, as the same interior sets are occasionally clear as day, and occasionally rife with grain and digital noise. The same goes for location shots, day and night. The only real constant is that the latter act of the film looks better than the rest of the film, including realistic and untarnished skin tones, and deeper, richer blacks. There is some compression noise around some of the dirtier edges, which seems to be an effect of the film’s shallow focus, but there’s no harsh white edge enhancement to speak of.
Changing Lanes doesn’t feature a lot of surround style to the film save a rainy scene, a sprinkler system scene, and a few relatively quiet outdoor scenes. Most of the sound effects, at least the natural ones likely picked up on set, are centred, and presented low-key beneath the all important dialogue and music. The soundtrack speaks for the characters a little too much, but also acts well to ratchet the tension in a handful of key scenes. There are also a few key points in the score where it ebbs and flows from one character’s experience to another. The music is mostly delegated to the stereo speakers, but has a moderate level of rear echo, and plenty of bass.
There are no extras here that weren’t apparently already available on the original DVD release. Things start with director Roger Michell’s commentary track. This isn’t the most boring track I’ve ever heard by a long shot, but Michell spends most of his time talking about locations, praising actors or pointing out the most obvious plot points, all with a slightly obnoxious poetic streak. The track isn’t gushing with pretension or anything, but I get the impression Michell had no idea what to do with himself.
‘The Making of Changing Lanes’ (15:00) is not even a disguised EPK, it’s a blatant sales pitch, or more specifically an elongated trailer featuring cast and crew interviews. ‘The Writer’s Perspective’ (06:30) is and interview with co-screenwriters Michael Tolkin and Chap Taylor. Here the writers mostly walk us through the more obvious subtexts of the film’s story, and the moral ambiguity they tried to infuse whole thing with. Things are completed with two deleted scenes (non-anamorphic SD, 04:55), an extended scene (also non-anamorphic SD, 04:37), and a trailer.
I don’t think Changing Lanes has been entirely forgotten, but it’s definitely fallen off the old radar a bit over the last eight years. This Blu-ray release marks a good chance for thriller fans to catch the film either again, or for the first time. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s much cleverer than the usual brainless tripe. The Blu-ray looks sharp, but a little inconsistent, and sounds solid, but not incredible. The extras are pretty fluffy, and do not differ from the original DVD release.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 19th May 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, The Making of Changing Lanes, A Writer's Perspective, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Roger Michel
Cast: Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack
Length: 98 minutes