Release Date(s)2014 (June 17, 2014)
Studio(s)Fox Searchlight Pictures (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C+
The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest masterpiece from one of our greatest contemporary directors, Wes Anderson. It stars a multitude of acting talent and features a story about a concierge named Gustave H. and his lobby boy Zero, and their chaotic adventures across the continent. In an odd twist of events, the two steal a priceless Renaissance painting from the family of a recently deceased older woman that Monsieur Gustave was secretly having a love affair with. The story is recounted by an older version of Zero to another interested party.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a very big fan of Wes Anderson’s work. Even when his films don’t reach as many audiences as they should, they are still a million times better than most other films readily available. And as with all of Wes Anderson’s work, The Grand Budapest Hotel has its own unique style, yet you immediately know it’s his, even if you didn’t know what you were watching. The film was shot in four different aspect ratios, with 1.33:1 making up the bulk of the film. The structure of the film is a story within a story within a story within a story, which sounds confusing and could be convoluted in nature, but it’s nothing more than a framework, and it wraps up amazingly well. The story is also told in a fairly straightforward fashion, with our two main characters jumping from one escapade to the next with little to no notice. Things heat up at times due to the backdrop of war hung in the background, but never to the point of a total shift in tone. It’s unmitigated dark humor with a spot of charm, from top to bottom, and it remains consistent throughout.
As expected, the entire cast shines, delivering some terrific and funny performances. Ralph Fiennes gives a devilishly charming performance as Monsieur Gustave, a man having questionable morals and actions, yet despite what he does, never once do you not feel like you’re not on his side. His lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori) carries the main character arc, of a sort, as you follow the two of them on their adventures and watching them get into one bad predicament after another. There are all the old Wes Anderson favorites on hand as well, such as Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman, as well as newcomers Saoirse Ronan, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, and F. Murray Abraham. While some of these actors get used very little in the film, I still consider the film an ensemble piece and that every part is vital to the story being told.
To say the least, Wes Anderson returns in a form much finer than ever before, especially after his previous film Moonrise Kingdom. I personally love that film, but it seemed to rub certain people the wrong way. The Grand Budapest Hotel, however, seems to be gaining more and more followers, and should become especially popular on home video.
For the film’s Blu-ray release, a marvelous high definition transfer has been created (would you expect anything less?). Image clarity and detail is pretty astounding, as is the film’s color palette, which robust doesn’t even begin to describe. Blacks are very deep and both contrast and brightness are perfect. There are also no signs of digital enhancements or compression artifacts. Although it was shot in multiple aspect ratios, quality is never an issue. The disc even sports a card before the film starts instructing viewers to set their monitors to 16x9, which is a kind of rare thing to see. But judging from the film’s multiple aspect ratios, you can probably understand why they felt the need to do this. Quite simply put, it’s a beautiful presentation. The same goes for the audio, which is featured in English 5.1 DTS-HD (there are also several other options in different languages, as well as an English 5.1 Descriptive Audio track). The main soundtrack isn’t overly aggressive, but yet it is at the same time. It features an awful lot of surround activity with plenty of ambience. Dialogue is always clean and clear and both score and sound effects sound fantastic. There’s nothing else to say really; it’s perfect to my ears, and eyes. There are also a whole host of subtitle options in English, Spanish and French for those who might need them.
The extras on this fine Blu-ray release include a Bill Murray Tours the Town featurette (a Blu-ray exclusive); a set of Vignettes (Kunstmuseum Zubrowka Lecture, The Society of the Crossed Keys and Mendl’s Secret Recipe); a set of Promotional Featurettes (The Making of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Cast and Wes Anderson); a stills gallery; the film’s theatrical trailer; a set of sneak peeks (Discover Digital HD, Dom Hemingway, Searchlight 20th Anniversary, MGM 90th Anniversary, and 3 Days to Kill); and finally, a paper insert with a Digital HD download code.
It should go without saying that The Grand Budapest Hotel will be picked up by the Criterion Collection at some point in the future (Wes Anderson’s films always do). But I’m not discouraging you from picking this release up, because you definitely should. It sports a fantastic transfer and a decent set of extras, but above all, it’s a damn fine film. Highly recommended!
– Tim Salmons