Director: Denzel Washington
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson
Release Date: March 14, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
Adapted by legendary writer August Wilson from his own renowned play, FENCES follows former Negro-league baseball player Troy Maxson (Washington) in 1950s Pittsburgh as he fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down.
Based upon the play by the same name, ‘Fences’ introduces us to the life of Troy Maxson (Washington) who spends his days working as a garbage hauler and looking forward to his weekends relaxing and discussing the world at his home in 1950’s Pittsburg with his friends and family. Still unable to quite let go of his talented baseball skills and the racial issues so prominent at the time which he felt kept him from ever achieving his full potential, his biggest worry at the moment is completing the construction on a new fence around his yard with the assistance of his youngest son. Viewed largely from Troy’s perspective as those around him attempt to achieve their dreams and goals, he can’t help but knock them down and remind each individual of the numerous reasons why they will never achieve them. Love, struggle, misery and new obstacles are all just a part of daily life for Troy, his family and those closest to him.
Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson which was based upon his acclaimed play of the same name, Washington does a wonderful job at the helm of ‘Fences’ guiding the emotional and raw power along quite perfectly. The film also owes a tremendous share of the credit to the incredibly talented folks that comprise the cast and truly hold everything together including Denzel Washington (Training Day), Viola Davis (The Help), Stephen Henderson (Manchester by the Sea), Jovan Adepo (TV’s The Leftovers), Russell Hornsby (TV’s Grimm), Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump) and more, nearly all delivering spot-on performances in each of their respective roles, Viola Davis even taking home an Academy Award for her performance in the film.
‘Fences’ is a powerful, incredibly human and at times somewhat unsettling look at the daily struggles of one man and his family, something that sadly was a common occurrence in 1950’s Pittsburg. It recreates the time period beautifully and while not a great deal is seen beyond small areas of the neighborhood, it nonetheless serves as a key part of the film and also one of the more attractive elements within; often maintaining a mild beauty and calmness in its intricate details. Director Denzel Washington does a fantastic job guiding the story along, and he along with Viola Davis and the remainder of the cast all offer noteworthy performances and carry this dialogue based tale along without missing a beat. While ‘Fences’ is an undeniably fantastic movie in almost every way, it’s also not a film that is likely to appeal to all audiences, even I must admit it took a few sittings to make my way through it as a result of only one key setting and a great deal of dialogue which at times is spoken with notable speed and haste. Those who enjoyed the play or are fans of notable writer August Wilson and/or any of the remarkably talented cast members within will definitely want to make sure to give ‘Fences’ a watch when you have the opportunity to do so, it definitely shouldn’t disappoint fans of the source material.
Overall, ‘Fences’ is a beautifully shot, phenomenally acted and overall powerfully delivered tale that nary misses a beat along its emotional course; guided with obvious passion by Denzel Washington who makes a rare return to the director’s chair in addition to starring in the lead role. While those who aren’t interested in the general story or have trouble allowing films that are entirely dialogue based to maintain their attention will probably want to pass on ‘Fences’, the diehard fans of the play or the work of talented playwright August Wilson and/or the various talented cast members in general will certainly want to make a point of checking this one out when you have the chance, it should be well worth the cost of a rental at the absolute least for those hesitant to drop the funds on a blind purchase of the Blu-ray (or DVD/Digital) release.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Fences’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks fantastic as a whole and provides a sharp and beautifully detailed presentation from start to finish, holding up impressively down to every line and minuscule detail and suffering no notable faults throughout; maintaining an impressive bitrate all the while. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from Paramount that should have no trouble pleasing the fans and casual viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack delivers a crisp, clean and sharp audio presentation throughout. As the film is primarily dialogue based it should come as no surprise that the audio presentation isn’t overly active, although it does occasionally utilize all seven available channels in order to send nature elements, along with crowd chatter and the like throughout the various speakers when appropriate, and all dialogue sounds sharp and flawless at all times. Overall, this is a solid 7.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that while unsurprisingly tame still manages to deliver in every way required of it and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Fences’ includes a collection of Behind the Scenes Featurettes that feature behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus more. The included Featurettes are: ‘Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen’ (running approximately 9 minutes in length), ‘The Company of Fences’ (running approximately 9 minutes), ‘Building Fences: Denzel Washington’ (approximately 7 minutes), ‘Playing the Part: Rose Maxson’ (7 minutes), and ‘August Wilson’s Hill District’ (6 minutes).