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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Force Majeure (Blu-ray)
Force Majeure (Blu-ray)
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // February 10, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted February 15, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Not many people have presumably heard of Ruben Ostlund, a writer and director who had done several films in his native Sweden. That may be changing shortly as Force Majeure may be the first notes of attention from America and elsewhere to Ostlund talents and in this film which he also wrote and directed, it is easy to see why.

The film's focus is on a Swedish family who is spending several days at a breathtaking ski resort in the French Alps. Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) get along well and their two children are Harry and Vera and they would seem to come out of whatever is the Swedish version of a Rockwell painting. One day at lunch, the family sees an avalanche, presumably a controlled one as similar ones had been occurring during their stay. As the avalanche keeps coming towards the resort, Tomas and Ebba make separate decisions which in turn, have lasting impacts on their marriage.

It may sound slightly morbid, but the particular joy for me when it comes to Force Majeure is that the premise of the story is simple, and the result is left for the characters to help play out, and it does so in such a way that it is difficult to not be invested in their fates. In Ebba, Kongsli physically looks a little like Audrey Tautou and seems to possess a similar sense of charm in her naivete, but as she learns more about Tomas there is some precision in her comments the more the skiing trip plays out, giving some thought that she perhaps has held the feelings she has for Tomas for awhile, and the events surrounding the avalanche were the perfect moment to play them out. Kongsli's performance is very good.

Kuhnke does not necessarily one up her, but he is equal to the task at the very least. Tomas has a stubbornness to accept his actions that ventures into cognitive dissonance perhaps, and we watch him slowly devolve over the course of the movie. Ostlund helps accomplish this with long shots still fixed on him, despite the characters around him still talking to him. One moment where he is confronted with what he what he did via footage from his phone's camera, it is entrancing. Everyone around him wants to know what he is thinking, and we do too, but he does not let it out until a final act admission that also serves as a catharsis.

Ostlund gives his story the time to unfold and keeps our attention throughout. The appearance of Kristofer Hivju (notably Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones) as Tomas' friend Mats is surprising at first, but Ostlund's confidence in those he's cast to do what is expected of them to do is the bigger takeaway. You are drawn into the family and friends in Force Majeure easily by Ostlund, and the end, while perhaps a touch ambiguous, hits just the right note when it comes to what Ostlund wants to accomplish. The next steps for Tomas and Ebba are clearly off the mountain, so to speak.

Force Majeure is clever in its concealment, almost flipping the third act on its head at initial glance, but then you realize that the conflict over the course of the film is, well, genuine conflict. There is a lot to infer over the course of the movie and from Tomas and Ebba and it is executed to pitch perfection. The film is a fascinating point where the talents of Ostlund, Kuhnke and Kongsli intersect at the right time, and one of the most fascinating movies of 2014 may have been delivered as a result.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

The AVC encode that graces the 2.40:1 high-definition transfer on Force Majeure is quietly impressive. The sun glistens against the snow and you can spot the glistening effect on the terrain easily, and in moments of snow (of varying degrees), the flakes are generally sharp and clear, and whites are natural yet almost want to make you squint. Flesh tones are accurate and colors appear faithfully reproduced, whether it is in snow jackets or in pajamas. It is a quality presentation.

The Sound:

The accompanying DTS HD-MA 5.1 lossless track encompasses the power of the avalanche with immersion and low end from the subwoofer effectively, and also has the power in slightly more restrained moments like in the club where some chalet patrons engage in primal screaming to club music. The score sounds dynamic in the soundstage and the dialogue does not waver during the film. It is good work from Magnolia.

Extras:

There is an interview with Ostlund and Kuhnke which appears to have been conducted during the press junket for the film (16:43), and things are okay, as Ostlund recounts his inspiration for the film and the process of putting together the screenplay. Kuhnke recounts his approach to the character and his thoughts on Tomas, and how Ostlund works on set. Next is "A Look At Force Majeure," an brief piece promoting the film, using some of the previously noted interview (2:37). The trailer (1:58) completes things.

Final Thoughts:

In Force Majeure, one of the better films, foreign or otherwise, is the result, and the performances by the leads and the direction is all worthy of the raves it has garnered to date. Technically, the film looks and sounds excellent, and hopefully a Criterion release of the film occurs before (what I believe will be) the inevitable remake to compensate for the lack of extras. Absolutely carve out the time to check this out.

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