Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan
Release Date: March 1, 2022
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 10/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Kenneth Branagh, Belfast is a poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s. Buddy’s family lives in a largely Protestant district with a few Catholic families but one day his community and everything he thought he understood about life is suddenly turned upside down. Buddy’s family gets caught in the mayhem and must decide to stay or leave the only place they have ever called home. Through it all, his passionate parents (Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan) and quick-witted grandparents (Academy Award®-winner Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds) keep the joy alive through music and the magic of movies in this feel-good story that reminds us that no matter how far you go, you never forget where you came from.
Please Note: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own.
‘Belfast’ accompanies a young boy named Buddy and his family in the late 1960’s as Buddy’s carefree and enjoyable life is thrown into disarray when everything around him changes. Living in a primarily Protestant district with a few Catholic families, the town turns from happiness and neighborly to dangerous when many try to threaten the Catholic families into leaving their homes through violence and fear. Now, Buddy’s family must decide whether to stay here and try to survive the chaos or move elsewhere, especially after the family becomes caught up in the chaos regardless of their intention and attempts to stay out of it.
Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, Thor) who does an outstanding job at the helm of ‘Belfast’ guiding along this incredibly personal tale brimming with beauty, wonder and care. The film also benefits a great deal from the talented and well selected cast which includes Caitríona Balfe (TV’s Outlander), Judi Dench (Skyfall), Jamie Dornan (Synchronic), Ciarán Hinds (First Man), Colin Morgan (Legend 2015) and introducing Jude Hill, along with more, and nearly all providing capable and fitting performances in each of their respective roles.
‘Belfast’ is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking that’s as enjoyable and beautiful as it is moving, terrifying and unforgettable. Quite possibly the best film of last year, it weaves an emotional tale of one family who finds their peaceful lives disrupted when everything they knew changes in the blink of an eye. While never delving into truly unsettling territory, it also never hesitates to explore the more unpleasant aspects within, finding a perfect balance between the beauty and darkness that allows the viewer to understand the tumult surrounding them while still allowing plenty of light and positive elements to seep through and the end result is something magnificent that isn’t to be missed. Shot primarily in black in white, it almost feels like a film created in the era that it occurs in much of the time and even utilizes color when showing on-stage plays and film which beautifully represents the wonder of such entertainment escapes within. Kenneth Branagh does a magnificent job directing his own script along with care and an obvious passion for the tale and the stellar cast including Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan and more each only help this mesmerizing tale to reach its full potential and become something incredibly special. I can’t encourage everyone strongly enough to make a point of checking out ‘Belfast’ whenever possible. It’s an outstanding film in every possible way that is a wonder to behold and is definitely worth taking the time to give a chance.
Overall, ‘Belfast’ is an engrossing, moving and gorgeously crafted look at the experiences of one family in the late 1960’s as everything around them changes. Kenneth Branagh guides along his own script with care for every minor detail throughout and the personal nature of the story is evident every step of the way. Films like this are truly a rare treat and ‘Belfast’ is remarkable in everything from its attention to detail and portrayal of the time to the emotion within, with a wonderful cast that seals the deal and makes this a thoroughly amazing film that you probably won’t want to overlook. ‘Belfast’ easily earns one of my highest possible recommendations and it’s also quite likely the best film of 2021. For anyone that’s already even the slightest bit interested in this one, it should easily prove worthy of your time and the price of a rental at the absolute least.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Belfast’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation with the film’s original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks fantastic as a whole and delivers a clean, sharp and wonderfully detailed presentation from start to finish with no unexpected problems or issues to be uncovered along the way. It holds up great even during the more heavily populated and darkly lit moments, never causing anything that’s occurring onscreen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible at any point. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from Universal that holds up beautifully throughout and should easily please first time viewers as well as fans.
The Blu-ray release features a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This multichannel soundtrack does a great job of complementing the tale and provides a crisp, sharp and well balanced audio presentation throughout. It repeatedly utilizes all seven available channels in order to send the music, along with helicopters passing by and plenty more throughout the various speakers whenever appropriate, while always making certain that any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously remain clean, sharp and fully audible every step of the way. Overall, this is a great 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack that sounds sharp and on point throughout and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Belfast’ includes a few notable extras. Included on the release is an ‘Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kenneth Branagh’, along with a number of ‘Deleted Scenes’ with optional commentary by Kenneth Branagh (running approximately 3 minutes in length altogether) and an ‘Alternate Ending’ with optional Commentary by Branagh who also appears in the alternate ending. Also included on the release is the Behind the Scenes Featurette ‘A City of Stories: The Making of Belfast’ (running approximately 10 minutes in length) which includes interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more. The fun video ‘Everyone’s Inner Child’ (approximately 2 minutes) is also included which features the cast and crew reflecting on childhood memories.
*Please note that the above images are taken from the Blu-Ray and resized. They will additionally suffer quality loss as a result of .jpg compression. Larger versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the image. All images and content included on this Blu-Ray release are the property of their respective owners.
Film Rating: 10/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
‘Belfast’ is Now Available to Own on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from Focus Features & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
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