The Hundred-Foot Journey is an adaptation of the 2010 novel (of the same name) written by Richard C. Morais, with a screenplay penned by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke). Released by DreamWorks and Touchstone Pictures, this heartwarming tale was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey (in their first collaboration since 1985's The Color Purple). Directed by Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) this was a surprise hit with over 88 million in the box-office. With an emphasis on family, fine food, and a life journey, The Hundred-Foot Journey is an intelligent, emotionally-rich, and high quality film that is sure to delight.
The story of the film centers around the Kadam family. They underwent great tragedy in India and decide that it is time to move their family someplace new and to open a restaurant serving Indian food. The end result is the family arriving in France and starting their own place. They find an impressive location which Papa Kadam (Om Puri) finds to be perfect despite a lot of work needing to happen to the building before it would be useable. Hard work ensues and storytelling of the finest caliber unfolds.
After completing renovations for their restaurant, the location opens up as Maison Mumbai. Across the street from their new restaurant is the decidedly popular (and Michelin starred) restaurant managed by chef Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Before long, a war ensues between the two restaurants as the Maison Mumbai brings in many new guests with its absolutely wondrous exotic food, beautiful music, and enchanting atmosphere. This is undoubtedly an area where a lot of the delicate humor and entertainment value of the picture comes from as the two restaurants try to "out-cook" each other by creating and serving better entrees; bustling in the kitchen with the determination to come out on top as the best restaurant.
To the perfectionist chef Madame Mallory, the new restaurant's growing popularity is appalling, and it goes against the "fine taste" of her establishment. Yet as she comes to know the Kadam family, her distaste (pun intended) for the restaurant dampens and she starts to see a greater potential within chef Hassan (Manish Dayal), who was serving as head-cook for the Maison Mumbai family restaurant and who has the skills required to become a top-rated chef rated in league with Mallory's own skills.
Over the course of the story, Hassan begins to learn much more about French cuisine and how preparing dishes in a variety of styles can bring new depths to his cooking. He befriends (and begins a romance) with the kind-spirited chef from Madame Mallory's restaurant, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), who helps him to grow as a cook. As Hassan's skills continue developing, eventually he becomes a top-chef and travels abroad with his gifts. Yet the uniquely powerful allure of home never strays far from his heart, and as the story continues, it's clear it means to focus more on familial connections, love (both familial and romantic love), and the powerful memory (or soul) of food (both through creation and eating), above a plotline merely reaching for totality in "critical successes". These true-to-life storytelling blemishes are what helps make the journey richly satisfying and deeply human. It's hard to imagine anyone who has ever been close with another or who has pursued a dream not finding something relatable and beautiful within the story.
Director Lasse Hallström has crafted out of his best pictures to date. The filmmaking is grand: from the sweeping landscape vista shots to the focus on character and fine performances, the filmmaking feels magnetic and will draw viewers into this wonderfully crafted world. Seeing French locations given so much keen focus by the director (and not the cinematographer alone) helps to keep the tone and feeling of the film lush and intimate. Hallström likes to make films with great stories while telling them with a keen visual sensibility that allows time to appreciate the little moments in life. This special gift as a filmmaker serves him well on The Hundred-Foot Journey. He capably brings to life the noteworthy script by Steven Knight, who remembers how important it is to leave enough room in the script for the characters and performances to shine as brightly as they can.
With regards to the performances, Helen Mirren delivers one of her best performances to date, Om Puri delights and the lovably enthusiastic Papa, Manish Dayal impresses with his warmly stoic performance as a cook determined to be his best, and Charlotte Le Bon delights with a uniquely luminous glow as a beautifully-spirited character who never stops believing in the magic of cooking. The acting in the film is tremendous, heartfelt, skilled, and award-worthy. Mirren especially impresses here: she is an actress with a great range who continues to find interesting new ways to surprise and delight audiences.
The cinematography by Linus Sandgren (American Hustle, Promised Land) is triumphant. The beauty of the photography helps to make the film feel as emotionally rich as it does: the bold, rich colors, and the elegant stylistic flourishes Sandgren brings are impeccable to behold. Its naturalistic and old-school in the best way possible (bringing to mind the kind of work seen during the 90's from recognized Hollywood cinematographers). The lush 35mm film was a excellent choice for this production aesthetic - it gives the film a superbly naturalistic vibe.
The music was composed by A.R. Rahman. Though the composer has well over 100 credits to his name as composer, Rahman has only become more renowned within the United States over the past several years (following the rather triumphant collaboration with Danny Boyle as the composer for Slumdog Millionaire). Rahman makes beautiful, spiritual, and energetic music that feels as soulful as it feels free-spirited in its dazzling beauty. As the composer for The Hundred-Foot Journey, Rahman brings the film to greater heights and compliments the filmmaking perfectly. This was a wonderful effort and one that should be recognized come Oscar season.
In the release's supplemental features producer Steven Spielberg refers to the film as a "soufflé", and while that sentiment is accurate, The Hundred-Foot Journey is also much more than that. Audiences responded well to the film because it tells a story that is highly relatable: one of a family and their ups and downs in life, as well as the importance of pursuing our dreams. It delights on a emotional level that represents quite a lot more than mere entertainment. The breezy, beautiful, and smart filmmaking makes The Hundred-Foot Journey one of the most impressive filmmaking efforts of the entire year. A must see.
The Hundred-Foot Journey arrives on Blu-ray with a impressive MPEG-4 1080p high definition presentation in the original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen. The image of the film was finished with a 2K scan of the original negative. This lush production has a naturally filmic look to it that works wonders for the aesthetic of the film. Shot using traditional 35mm film, this is a gorgeous looking film. While some elements of the photography maintain an element of natural softness, there's nothing to really complain about with this presentation, which is a impressive one that capably handles the intended look of the film. Viewers will be pleased with this fine Blu-ray presentation, which offers adequate grain reproduction and a pleasant color depth with an impressive 31.07 bit-rate.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound presentation of the film is a delight to listen to. Some viewers might feel that given this production's drama roots that it won't be as impressive with regards to sound design. Yet, in my experience, this was a splendidly designed mix with ample surround implementation, a nicely wide sense of ambiance, and the mix focuses upon composer A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) with great proficiency. The score sounds as splendid and lovely as any score fan could hope for with this presentation. With the high-resolution 24 bit encoding, this release really sounds as splendid as possible.
The Hundred-Foot Journey With Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey (12 min.) is a rather nice extra with Spielberg and Oprah sitting down together to discuss the film adaptation and their work collaborating together on this project (30 years after The Color Purple). The only issue with this entertaining supplement is its length: I could have listened to these two discussing everything about their collaboration and the film for much longer as they are both so highly enjoyable to listen to.
On Set with Oprah Winfrey (4 min.) is a brief behind-the-scenes featurette with the focus being on Oprah's involvement with the picture. This piece showcases her, as the title suggests, on the set of filming.
Coconut Chicken (5 min.) is a recipe tutorial video with instructions by Hundred-Foot Journey's Indian Chef Instructor.
Please note that all of these video supplements are presented in 1080p HD. Lastly, the release comes with a Digital HD code of the main feature.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is one of the most pleasant cinematic surprises of the year. This is a heartfelt, emotional, and complex story of family, food, and following dreams. It's a wonderful story brought to life with precision by the elegiac director Lasse Hallström. Spielberg and Oprah had it right to produce this film adaptation. The cast is excellent and the journey the film takes is one the audience will enjoy: it's a journey that is well worth taking.
Touchstone and DreamWorks have delivered a excellent quality Blu-ray release with exceptional video and audio quality for the film presentation, along with a small (but good quality) selection of supplemental materials. Fans are absolutely encouraged to pick up this gem of a film (which is well worth owning and adding to a film collection).