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1,000 Times Good Night DVD Review

1,000 Times Good Night (2014) movie poster 1,000 Times Good Night

US Theatrical Release: October 24, 2014 (Norwegian Release: October 18, 2013) / Running Time: 117 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Erik Poppe / Writers: Harald Rosenløw-Eeg (story & script), Erik Poppe (story), Kirsten Sheridan (additional material)

Cast: Juliette Binoche (Rebecca "Becca" Thomas), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Marcus Thomas), Lauryn Canny (Stephanie "Steph" Thomas), Adrianna Cramer Curtis (Lisa Thomas), Maria Doyle Kennedy (Theresa), Larry Mullen Jr. (Tom), Mads Ousdal (Stig), Chloë Annett (Jessica)

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Being an Academy Award winner and French, Juliette Binoche is someone you expect more to see in arthouse fare than Godzilla. But the actress managed to find time for both in 2014. Among her latest offerings to indie filmgoers is 1,000 Times Good Night,
an English language drama from Norwegian filmmakers that virtually every country in Europe had a hand in funding. (It's the kind of movie where you measure the opening production company logos in minutes, not seconds.)

Released to two dozen American theaters this past October, the film stars Binoche as Rebecca Thomas, an accomplished war zone photographer. We open with Rebecca at work, silently photographing a young woman who is ceremoniously armed with the vest she'll need as a suicide bomber. So committed to her calling is Rebecca that she goes along for the ride, snapping a final shot in the brief moment between her exit and detonation. Right before the explosion, a guilt-ridden Rebecca issues a warning to those in the area, which include children. Alas, moments later, they are dead and Rebecca is wounded.

She awakens in a Dubai hospital to her husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and is soon returning home to Ireland and their two daughters. Haunted by her experiences, Rebecca is also feeling bad about being away from her children so often. She vows to stop shooting conflicts, a plan marine biologist Marcus would appreciate if he believed she'd follow through on it.

Like mother, like daughter: Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) gives her teenage daughter Stephanie (Lauryn Canny) her own Canon with which to photograph the Kenya refugee camp they visit in "1,000 Times Good Night."

While teenaged daughter Stephanie (Lauryn Canny) is using her mom's old photos for a school project, Rebecca gets an offer to work in a safe refugee camp in Kenya, where she'll document the humanitarian efforts. Steph not only encourages her mom to take the job but also accompanies her on it, getting a camera of her own to be an apprentice. You just know from the way it's set up that no good will come from the trip. Unforeseen complications find Rebecca facing the urge to photograph more danger and her rash actions tear at the fabric of both her marriage and her relationship with her kids.

1,000 Times sure looks the part of a prestige picture. It quickly assumes an air of self-importance as it lingers with slow-motion shots of its heroine performing her noble duty. The film features picturesque cinematography that often makes use of magical sunsets. There is also prominent, uninhibited score reminding you that this is dramatic and serious stuff. Director Erik Poppe may not have the most extensive filmography in his native Norway, but all three of his previous features have commanded some respect and acclaim. What's more is that Poppe comes to this project with first-hand knowledge. He shares credit for the story, drawing on his previous career as a decorated international conflict photographer.

All of these facts point to a moving experience like the one you'd expect from the solid 74% approval rating the film currently holds on Rotten Tomatoes. But this is one of those instances where the big number on that aggregate site deceives. Three-fourths of critics approved of the movie when choosing only between "fresh" and "rotten." Such an approval rating would give a bigger film a distant shot at cracking the Oscars' Best Picture race. The more telling numbers displayed by 1,000 Times are the average ratings of 6.1 (all critics) and 6.3 (top critics), each out of 10. This is the kind of small, passionate, personal movie one does not like to declare "rotten."

Rebecca's husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is sick of her putting herself in harm's way. As Becca (Juliette Binoche) rides up an escalator, her spirits remain low.

The truth is, no matter how well-intentioned and autobiographical this film may be, it is constructed in a most clumsy manner. The script attributed to Harald Rosenløw-Eeg, a writer on two of Poppe's three Norwegian films, has a childlike sense of sophistication. Perhaps working in English for the first time is a challenge, but it isn't the language that fails the film.
It is in the plot developments. Every emotion -- from Marcus' passive-aggressive resentment to Rebecca's remorse to Stephanie's conflicted interest -- is presented tidily and on the nose. There are no surprises. Secrets emerge improbably from the finding of a stealth video on a computer and news that US government pressure threatens to suppress Rebecca's more daring photos comes in an insincere Skype video call.

There are always more tactful ways to convey this information that elude the filmmakers. As such, no matter how striking the sun-kissed compositions and flaring score may be, the film underwhelms dramatically.

Just two months after starting its brief, limited theatrical engagement, 1,000 Times Good Night hits DVD this week from Film Movement, which releases it outside of their signature film-of-the-month club.

1,000 Times Good Night DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None
Closed Captioned; Foreign Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 23, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $24.95
Clear Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Film Movement has still yet to make the leap to Blu-ray, which leaves the thoughtful cinematography of 1,000 Times Good Night lacking some luster in standard definition. The 2.35:1 picture does not suffer from any issues worse than a brief moiré effect, but it clearly stands to gain from the improved sharpness and detail of high definition.

The English language soundtrack is provided in both Dolby Stereo 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1. The former is chosen by default, so those with a home theater will want to make the switch. The mix is fine if not terribly remarkable, showcasing the score by Armand Amar more than anything else. Unfortunately, Film Movement does not include the English subtitles they regularly offer on their foreign films. Those seeking clarity may not be helped by the closed captions, which HDMI cords render inaccessible.

Behind-the-scenes footage shows that Erik Poppe directs his international cast in English. Director Erik Poppe gives a long and substantial interview to a Norwegian newspaper.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING, and DESIGN

While 1,000 Times Good Night is not joined by one of the short films that always adorn Film Movement's club selections,
the DVD does include a number of bonus features pertaining directly to the movie.

First up is an untitled behind-the-scenes featurette (8:10), which serves up a secondary camera's footage of the filming of scenes. Its value lies in the unfettered looks at Poppe's direction and Binoche's acting. You'll want to turn on subtitles for latter parts, which translate the foreign words being spoken by crew and Coster-Waldau.

We also get four interviews. The first two come from Norwegian television: a superficial one from Binoche and Poppe (4:52) and Poppe at greater length on his own in Norwegian with subtitles (14:18), a solid piece complemented by nice behind-the-scenes photos. The other two find Coster-Waldau (5:08) speaking over loud wind in what might be his native Danish, and teenaged Irish actress Lauryn Canny (7:11) speaking in English about her film debut.

A one-paragraph biography gives you some background on Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, a Danish actor who's become increasingly prominent in American film and television. Film Movement departs from their standard animated main menu design for this non-club release.

A Bios & Trailers section holds text screen biographies of the director and his two adult leads. We also get the US trailer for 1,000 Times Good Night (1:35).

The disc opens with trailers for Not Another Happy Ending., The Dark Valley, and If You Don't, I Will, plus a general Film Movement promo. They're all accessible from the Bios & Trailers or About Film Movement menus. Other menu-accessible trailers promote Traitors, Poppe's Troubled Water, and Storm.

The menu is a scored still image.

Film Movement packages this like a film-of-the-month-club release, using a clear keepcase and using the reverse side of the cover artwork to print a two-paragraph statement from director Poppe on how the film incorporates his own experiences as a war photographer.

Rebecca Thomas (Juliette Binoche) doesn't mind a life-threatening situation as long as there's a newsworthy photograph to be taken.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though handsome and polished visually, 1,000 Times Good Night underwhelms dramatically with its on-the-nose hysterics and obvious storytelling. Film Movement's DVD regrettably lacks subtitles but thankfully includes some substantial bonus features. Still, the film itself falls short of a recommendation.

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Reviewed December 22, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Film Movement, Swedish Film Institute, Irish Film Board, Eurimages,
Global Screen, Euforia, Paradox Film, Zentropa International Sweden, Newgrange Pictures, Film i Väst.
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