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November 24, 2015
Dark Places Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
7/8/2015 (USA)4/11/2015Village RoadshowGilles Paquet-Brenner
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD MA 5.1MA15+Charlize Theron

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Charlize Theron as Libby Day in Dark Places.

Dark Places is a film based on novel by Gillian Flynn - one which we haven't read - but is apparently quite popular. In any case, the cast in this film made it one which we were keen to check out, and here it is. So what's the film about then? Read on...

Libby Day (Charlize Theron) was only seven years old when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. In court, the traumatized child pointed the finger at her brother, Ben (Tye Sheridan), and her testimony put the troubled 16-year-old in prison for life. Twenty-five years later, a broke and desperate Libby has run through donations from a sympathetic public and royalties from her sensational autobiography, without ever moving past the events of that night.

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Acting in the film is generally impressive.
When Libby accepts a fee to appear at a gathering of true-crime aficionados led by Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult), she is shocked to learn most of them believe Ben is innocent and the real killer is still at large. In need of money, she reluctantly agrees to help them reexamine the crime by revisiting the worst moments of her life. But as Libby and Lyle dig deeper into the circumstances surrounding the murders, her recollections start to unravel and she is forced to question exactly what she sawĖor didnít see. As long-buried memories resurface, Libby begins to confront the wrenching truths that led up to that horrific night.

As we mentioned at the top of this review one of the biggest selling points of this film is the wonderful cast which includes Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult, and ChloŽ Grace Moretz. To be honest we found Charlize Theron's character Libby a little sad and mopey. Yes, we know she's had a traumatic experience in her life, but there's just no lighter moments to her character which drags the whole film down in tone. That's not to say her acting is bad though as she puts in a decent performance, and the supporting cast are also impressive with ChloŽ Grace Moretz impressing us yet again in a much darker role then we normally see from her, despite limited screen time.

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Dark Places is based on the Gillian Flynn novel.
While the film focuses on Libby Day as an adult, throughout the film there are flashback sequences which piece together her childhood including her family dynamics and indeed the events surrounding the death of her mother and sisters. These flashbacks are quite extensive but with so many the film feels like it jumps back and forth a little too often. Still, Tye Sheridan, puts in a great performance as Libbyís younger brother Ben. Also disappointing was the ending of the film which provided a bit of a surprise, but lacked any real punch and just sort of finished the film with a bit of a whimper.

Sadly, despite the stellar cast and some solid performances, Dark Places never lives up to its potential with a pretty mediocre story and dull conclusion. If you're a fan of Charlize Theron, or perhaps if you're a fan of the novel, then it's worth checking out (although we can't vouch for accuracy to the novel), but most will find this a pretty mediocre experience.

Dark Places is presented on Blu-Ray in the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and has been encoded with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. This is a very "exciting" film visually with a very muted color palette, a lack of vibrancy and plenty of scenes that take place either at night, or dimly lit interior locations. There are occasionally brighter scenes including one in a strip club which has some red/pink splashes of colour and some moments outdoors, but it's pretty muted. Still, fortunately with a pretty high bitrate the level of detail remains impressive in these darker scenes.

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Things get emotional for Libby Day.
With Dark Places being such a dialogue driven film there are few moments for this to shine as a great audio experience on Blu-Ray, but the disc still includes a pretty nice lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (24-bit/48Khz) track which offers crystal clear sound and with great sound prioritization this is a disc not likely to disappoint. Having said that there really aren't too many opportunities for the disc to impress sonically with no big action pieces, no big musical numbers and few opportunities to push surround sound.

Only one other audio track is an English Audio Descriptive track which is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps. While this isn't a lively film at the best of times, this low bitrate is a disappointment - surely surround sound could still be included to give a bit more life to the experience for those that need a descriptive track. The Blu-Ray contains only a single subtitle track, that being an English Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired available through the menu and is accurate to the on-screen dialogue.

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Dark Places is available on Blu-Ray now.
Upon starting this disc there are trailers for Self/Less (2:25), Survivor (2:05) and The Gift (2:25). Beyond that, unfortunately, there are no other Extras to add value to the disc.

Dark Places isn't a thrilling film, however it will find its fans and does have some decent acting from Charlize Theron as always. A decent transfer makes this Blu-Ray disc a preference over the DVD version, but it's probably a rental at best for most people.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.