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Incendiary (2008)

Image Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/5/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/1/2009

With the constant of barrage of media focusing on media which confronts us today, it's often nearly impossible to not know about movies and TV shows. Rarely do I pop in a DVD or Blu-ray Disc and not already have a clear understanding of what I'm about to watch. This is truly sad, because a movie should surprise us. I know that at some point I'd read a plot synopsis of Incendiary, but as I sat down to watch the movie, I realized that all I knew was the names of the two main actors. And this lack of knowledge helped to shape my viewing experience. Thus, I'm going to keep my overview of the movie's story vague, in hopes that you can approach the film in a similar manner.

Incendiary is set in modern-day London and focuses on a young woman (Michelle Williams), whose name we never learn. She lives in a small apartment with her four-year old son (Sidney Johnston) and her husband, Lenny (Nicholas Gleaves), a policeman who works on the bomb squad. Lenny works long hours and when he's at home, he's cold and aloof. Therefore, the young mother spends most of her time with her son, and he is the center of her world. One night, she leaves the boy with a neighbor and decides to visit a local pub. There, she meets Jasper Black (Ewan McGregor), a journalist who lives across the street from her block apartment in a row of classic townhouses. They flirt, but she's honest about the fact that she's married. A few days later, Lenny takes their son to a soccer game. The mother runs into Jasper on the street and she takes him back to her apartment for lunch. Not long after, a terrible tragedy occurs and the mother is swamped with feelings of guilt and remorse which will rock her world to the core.

Again, I know that's vague, but to divulge more would ruin the story. (FYI, don't read the back of the Blu-ray Disc box.) If there's one thing which Incendiary does well, it's deliver shocking plot twists. Granted, you would have to be very naive or be watching your very first movie to not know that something bad is going to happen at some point, but the movie delivers some emotional blows which do a great job of propelling the movie forward.

Which is a good thing, because the story in Incendiary is a jumbled mess at times. The movie is based on a novel by Chris Cleave, which was essentially a letter written by the main character in which she pours out her soul. The novel was adapted and the film directed by Bridget Jones's Diary veteran Sharon Maguire, but she clearly didn't know where to go with the material. On the one hand, the movie is an emotional drama, which explores how someone's life can be literally blown apart by one event. These aspects of the story are very depressing and at times, difficult to watch. But, on the other hand, Incendiary wants to be a political thriller. Jasper, being a journalist, begins investigating the events which effected the mother, and becomes suspicious of Lenny's boss, Terrance Butcher (Matthew McFadyen). If the film had stuck to just one of these storylines, it could have been very good. However, Maguire attempts to meld these two worlds and the result is unpleasant. Just as we are sucked into the mother's world of grief, we get a scene which is like something out of a Michael Mann film. The movie is also oddly edited at times, as there are moments which I'm convinced were supposed to be "red herrings", which didn't go anywhere. But, were they actually "red herrings", or did I project that onto the movie. See how confusing this is?

While the movie may not know what it is, one thing is for sure -- Michelle Williams is a knockout in the lead role. Adopting a believable (at least to my American ears) East End London accent, Williams must run a gamut of emotions here. We see her as the bored housewife, a coquettish, yet fierce woman, and a hollow shell of her former self. She's never glamorous in the role and she's very disheveled for the second half of the film. Williams' greatest accomplishment is the way in which the light in her eyes goes out after the film's first turning point. The supporting cast, most notably McGregor and Macfadyen. Incendiary gets lost along the way, and ultimately the film is not satisfying. However, the story is intriguing and Williams' performance is worth catching. So, consider this one a rental, but be warned, it's quite heavy at times.

Incendiary contains a dizzy bunny on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only very slight grain. There are also some minor (minute specks) defects from the source material. The colors are good, especially the reds in the film. The transfer apparently has a great amount of detail, as McGregor takes his shirt off and we can see the terrible job which someone did attempting to cover his tattoo. It looks as if his arm has been sewn on! The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. I must say that I was very impressed with the surround sound effects on this track. Being a drama which is often quiet, there are some crowd scenes which offer very detailed and effective audio from the rear channels. The stereo effects are good as well, and the sounds are well-placed from side-to-side. A few keys scenes provide very nice subwoofer effects.

The only extras included on the Incendiary Blu-ray Disc are six STILL GALLERIES which have photos of the actors and one which highlights the cast and crew, and the TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long