Denzel Washington’s directorial debut, Antwone Fisher, put him on the map as not only a fantastic actor but also as someone who can be great behind the camera as well. It took another five years before Washington picked up the camera again with The Great Debaters, but his first effort with Antwone Fisher turned plenty of heads, both in terms of critics but also in terms of theater goers who helped the film gross nearly double its budget worldwide. Led by strong directing and even stronger performances, Antwone Fisher arrives on Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of Fox Home Entertainment in full high-definition clarity.
Antwone Fisher is hailed as a “story of survival and triumph that will stir your soul!” (“Access Hollywood”). Oscar-winner* Denzel Washington (Malcolm X, Training Day) makes his powerful directorial debut with a film inspired by the extraordinary true story of Antwone Fisher, who penned the poignant screenplay. Magnificently portrayed by newcomer Derek Luke (Friday Night Lights, Miracle At St. Anna), Fisher struggles as a sailor in the U.S. Navy with his deep-seated psychological issues from childhood until a compassionate Navy psychiatrist, played by the incomparable Washington, helps him find the courage to heal.
Seeing The Great Debaters prior to this film left me at a bit of a disadvantage; both films took the true story elements to heart, yet in both cases the execution of the stories was less than stellar. Both were compelling, moving and engaging, yet both also left you wanting more and feeling a tad bit unfulfilled by the time the credits rolled. Certainly it wasn’t the story that was weak; it was heart wrenching and absolutely astonishing to see and the eventual triumph that Fisher is able to attain later in life is nothing short of fantastic. Having said that, a combination of the films pacing and editing just seems off and it’s nothing I can really put my finger on…it’s not big enough to actually completely ruin the experience for you, but awkward enough that it stands out.
For the most part, however, you’ll be so wrapped up in the story of the film that you won’t really notice the directorial/editing/whatever flaws it is that left me with that unsatisfied feeling. The story is definitely one to take in, as it covers the full spectrum of scenes that make your heart ache and scenes that make your heart sing—Fisher’s life certainly wasn’t normal by any means and the unique situations that he went through and was able to triumph over really made this film shine.
The film contained its story in a neat, two hour run time that spanned Fisher’s childhood and progressed into adulthood. I guess I shouldn’t say “neat”, as I felt that it was a bit stretched and the film felt a good forty five minutes longer than it really was. Part of this had to do with Washington’s character getting his own side plot, which is wholly underdeveloped and really quite a waste of time. In fact in that regard it really paralleled Great Debaters, as Washington’s character in that film had a similar plot going on. I wonder if these are studio mandated additions or something, as I can’t imagine Washington having a big enough of an ego that he demands that much screen time.
In the end Antwone Fisher is a movie film, but it isn’t without its flaws…I’m just not entirely sure what they are. It’s certainly an emotional and engaging film, but the way it plays out just feels awkward at times, which is where I think the film is hurt the most. Even with its shortcomings, however, this film is Recommended, especially to those who have yet to see it (I would have fallen in that bracket, as I didn’t know about this film until I received the Blu-ray [what can I say, I wasn’t really aware of movies that didn’t have multi-million dollar marketing budgets until recently]).
Fox has released Antwone Fisher in a single disc release with the usual inserts (advertisements, firmware notices, security label, etc) and disc art the mimics the cover. No slipcover is included and the menus for the film are simple and easy to navigate.
Video for the film is an AVC (@34mpbs) encoded transfer that is really sharp looking. Plenty of crisp imagery and fantastic visuals accompany this film and as disturbing as some of the images are, the entire film is wonderfully shot and lit. Lots of depth on the images as well as a bit of grain make this visually appealing, although not quite reference quality as some shots do appear to be a bit soft, but nothing overly distracting. Also included is a DTS-HD 5.1 surround track, which is predominately in the front channels and rarely takes the dive to the surrounds. Audio, however, is crystal clear and I have zero complaints about the clarity of the audio (and video) of this film. Also included are Spanish and French DD5.1 mixes, as well as English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras included are the same as the previous DVD release:
•Filmmakers Audio Commentary with director, producer and star Denzel Washington and producer Todd Black
•Meeting Antwone Fisher featurette
•The Making of Antwone Fisher featurette
•Hollywood and the Navy featurette
•Antwone Fisher – Original Theatrical Trailer
Overall this is a solid release, but since the extras are the same and the fact this isn’t really the type of film you absolutely need to see on Blu-ray. These extras are all the same as the previous release and cover the spectrum well. Of course since nothing is new, one has to ask themselves just how badly they need to upgrade to this disc to have the film in 1080p with DTS-HD audio. Yes, the film looks fantastic and sounds wonderful (almost all Fox titles do), but other than that there is nothing new here. Still Recommended for those who haven’t seen it, but previous owners can Skip this release unless they have lots of money to burn.
Antwone Fisher is now available on Blu-ray.