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Based on a novel by Austin Wright, Nocturnal Animals is a thriller-drama produced, adapted by, and directed by Tom Ford(A Single Man) with producer Robert Salerno (21 Grams, We Need to Talk About Kevin). Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is the owner of an art gallery who receives a manuscript in the mail for a book not yet published. The book is entitled "Nocturnal Animals" and it is written by Morrow's ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). The title of the book is something her husband once called her. She ponders the significance: is it a symbolic form of revenge or an attempt to reconnect?
Separated for years, Morrow is now married to Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), and the pair live in a disconnected relationship. While Hutton is having an affair Susan is alone to read the manuscript. As she quietly reads the novel it plays out within the film. During these sequences, Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) is having a family vacation with his wife Laura Hastings (Isla Fisher) and daughter India Hastings (Ellie Bamber).
Things turn violent when the dangerous Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his group of thugs terrorize the family on the road. The evening ends in death and it is up to Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) to help Tony find and bring to justice Ray and the others. Outside of the novel storyline, Susan flashes back to her marriage to Edward Sheffield and their relationship unfolds via flashbacks.
Despite Amy Adams getting first-billing, Jake Gyllenhaal is arguably the lead of the film. He has the most material to work with during the story. He has the most difficult part as he plays both the ex-husband and the main character in the novel which is told within the film. Both actors certainly deliver strong performances. Amy Adams has less to do in the film but is just as impressive in her part.
The film has a number of good production values. The production design by Shane Valentino (Beginners, The Normal Heart) is well designed and interesting. Costumes were designed by Arianne Phillips (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) and utilize many of the clothes made by Tom Ford. These are often elaborate designs and are quite impressive in the film. The music score composed by Abel Korzeniowski (W.E., A Single Man) is dark, moody, and perfectly befitting the story. The cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (The Avengers, Atonement, Pan) is one of the film's best strengths and it alternates creatively between the storyline of Susan Morrow in the present, via flashback, and through the book.
The screenplay by Tom Ford is full of symbolic imagery and metaphors. It's such a prominent thing in the film that it's practically in every scene. Some of these metaphors are a bit over the top, though. The film can feel like it's too focused on creating metaphors between the different storylines and it makes the film seem less focused on character development. Ford directed as well. Though he is well known as an acclaimed fashion designer, Ford has taken an interest in filmmaking in recent years. He certainly has a craft for visuals and stylistic filmmaking and its clear with this film that he has a unique directorial vision.
Nocturnal Animals is certainly a flawed film: it takes fewer surprising turns than expected and it is more focused on telling a dramatic storyline. At least the film mostly makes sense given that the dramatic storyline involves three different arcs: this aspect could have been badly handled but it's largely well executed. The film would have been more interesting with some surprises and better character development. It has uneven pacing in certain scenes. There's even an odd production goof surrounding the ages of some of the actors. Even so, it's a creative film which is certainly ambitious. It's a moderately entertaining thriller which has plenty of style which makes it worth seeing at least once.
Nocturnal Animals arrives on Blu-ray from Universal with an impressive 1080p high definition MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The film looks rather remarkable on Blu-ray and has great color reproduction (preserving the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey). The film looks naturally filmic and yet has a sharp, crisp, and modern style to it. The presentation is near-perfect and won't disappoint fans of the film.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film has a surprisingly good sound design which is quite creative without being as bombastic. The score music sounds great with this lossless audio as well. The fidelity is strong during the presentation. Dialogue is easy to understand.
Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), French, and Spanish.
Please Note: This is a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack release.
The Making of Nocturnal Animals is a three-part featurette (which can be viewed with a 'play all' as well) about the production of the film.
The three parts are as follows:
Building the Story (4 min., HD) focuses on the story in the film and how it is broken down into three storylines. Director/screenwriter Tom Ford discusses his approach to symbolism for the film.
The Look of Nocturnal Animals (4 min., HD) explores the costume designs and the fashion that was designed by Tom Ford and featured in the film. The cinematography is also discussed.
The Filmmaker's Eye: Tom Ford (4 min., HD) centers upon the directorial vision of filmmaker Ford and his approach to making and telling this story.
Nocturnal Animals is an ambitious film from screenwriter-director Tom Ford. It features strong performances by Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. The thriller-drama is stylish and unique visually. While the storytelling isn't quite as strong as it could have been, Ford has a distinct vision which makes it worth seeing.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.