When a movie with a title like Incendiary opens with a nameless young mother (Michelle Williams) doting on her unrelentingly adorable four year old moppet, tragedy really can't be all that far off on the horizon. As her son and husband dart off through the streets of London to catch an Arsenal game, Our Young Mother slinks away to fool around with a cocksmith of a journalist (Ewan McGregor). She loves her family, sure, but it's not an altogether fulfilling life being married to a workaholic who defuses bombs for a living. Anyway, the two of them are screwing around as the Arsenal game blares on the TV when...boom. A colossal explosion rings off in the distance, the TV goes blank, and Jasper pulls out and fumbles with the remote to see what's going on. (There's a word for that, I think.) It's a terrorist attack, and not only is the
Y.M. is in
So, what is it? A melodrama about a grieving window who tries to overcome the guilt that's ravaging her to rebuild her life? Some sort of political thriller? A double-underlined moral message about forgiveness? Incendiary starts off well enough, but after the explosion, its focus is scattered in eighteen different directions. She starts stalking the son of one of the suicide bombers, strikes up an unlikely friendship with him, and looks to be molding him into a surrogate son. That seems like a potentially intriguing (if awkwardly constructed) indie drama premise to explore: he lost a father, she lost her child, and the tragedy responsible for that loss ultimately brings them together. Like most everything about Incendiary, though, this is quickly abandoned. The conspiracy element doesn't build up to the frenzied cat-and-mouse chase or political intrigue you might expect, instead being comfortably explained away. In a movie that bludgeons the audience over the head again and again and again with its sentimentality, Incendiary climaxes with a particularly manipulative device as Y.M. descends into dementia, and the movie uncomfortably wraps it all up with an overwrought letter she writes to Osama bin Laden.
Rather than explore loss, regret, and mustering the strength to regroup, Incendiary's focus is scattershot and overbearingly melodramatic. Despite having the best of intentions, it's a series of half-baked plot devices from four or five different movies clumsily spliced together, and piling on so many wholly unnecessary derailments saps away the strength of the character drama it seemed poised to be. For what it's worth, the cast is solid, and I particularly liked Michelle Williams, who's endearing despite her infidelity and adopts a reasonably convincing British accent to boot. It's a performance that really deserves to be in a movie helmed by a more confident, assured hand than this.
Incendiary looks fine, if rather unremarkable, in high definition. The scope image isn't startlingly crisp or detailed, but it's reasonably sharp and well-defined just the same. Its texture is unexpectedly smooth as well, and some facial textures are so silken that I found myself wondering if any mild filtering might have been applied. To complement the gloomy tone of the film and the urban sprawl of its backdrop, Incendiary skews towards more of a subdued, almost overcast palette, and it's rendered nicely enough on Blu-ray. The photography has a rather two-dimensional look to it, lacking the almost tactile depth of the more striking titles on the format, and its black levels are frequently kind of anemic. Unexceptional but good enough.
This BD-25 retains Incendiary's original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and the movie has been encoded with AVC.
Bolstered by an immersively atmospheric sound design, Incendiary's 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack fares better than its rather ordinary high definition visuals. Though the overwhelming majority of the film is driven by its dialogue and score, Incendiary does a wonderful job fleshing out such a convincing world around this young mother. The mix gets fairly aggressive in its more action-oriented sequences as well, particularly in the aftermath of the terrorist assault and Williams' character tearing through the streets of London as she reels from an unpleasant revelation. The lower frequencies are impressive when unleashed, largely from the resounding booms in the score but also from the explosion and such effects as the snarl of Terrance's sportscar. Incendiary's score can overwhelm the dialogue at times, but the line readings are generally rendered cleanly and clearly throughout. It's a solid effort.
A traditional Dolby Digital 5.1 track has also been provided alongside subtitle streams in English (SDH) and Spanish.
The only extras are a fairly extensive set of high-res still galleries and a standard definition theatrical trailer.
The Final Word
There's a considerably stronger movie desperate to claw its way out of this heavy-handed melodrama, but Incendiary too readily succumbs, and the end result is far too overbearing and manipulative to warrant anything more than a rental. Rent It.