Timber (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Well Go USA
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (1st October 2015).
The Film

With their family farm about to be auctioned off by the bank, brothers Samuel (Josh Peck of the Red Dawn remake) and Wyatt (James Ransone, Larry Clark's Kids) make a deal with banker Howell (Game of Thrones' Julian Glover) to track down their goldminer father Jedediah (William Gaunt) believed to have instigated a deadly shootout when his fellow miners turned on each other after coming up empty during the hard winter and collect the reward to pay off the debt on their home. Excitable Wyatt does not care whether they bring him back dead or alive while seemingly even-keeled Samuel wants him alive to explain to their mother Maggie's (Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jupiter Ascending) face why he abandoned them. No sooner do they pass through town than the Sheriff (David Baile, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) intimates his suspicion that Wyatt is responsible for the murder and robbery of one of Howell's men. It seems that the Sheriff is not the only one who does not trust them since Howell announces that the brothers will be accompanied by experienced tracker Colonel Rupert Thomas (Mark Caven, Antiviral). Although neither of the brothers trust Thomas, Wyatt states unambiguously what he suspects Howell wants to ensure that they do not return for the reward (or wants his agent to claim the rewards) and will put a bullet between the man's eyes if he so much as looks at him wrong. The three men get a hint of what things are like further up north when they stop to question the only a member of the mining colony who escaped down the mountain and discover that someone has cut his tongue out. When they lose two of their horses and wagon, the three men form an uneasy alliance but the brothers soon discover how highly-strung the outwardly cool tracker is when they arrive at the camp at the foot of the mountain to discover the men there have also gone mad from gold fever. Trekking up into the mountains on foot with a single horse, the three are ambushed, Thomas is killed, and their other horse is lost. While Samuel wants to return home to his wife (Elisa Lasowski, Eastern Promises) and newborn son, Wyatt is adamant about finding their father. The brothers part ways but soon discover that their own personal demons are not the only dangers in the blinding white snow. Unbeknownst to the brothers, Howell sends surveyors to the farm in preparation for its auctioning in a matter of days, leaving Maggie and Lisa to defend their home.

An attempt at the western-as-psychological-drama set in Call of the Wild-territory atypical for the western with The Great Silence and the more recent The Dark Valley as superior examples with Romania in winter substituting visually for the Alaskan outback, The Timber is long on mood but uneven in tone, choppy in plotting (despite the languorous pacing), and thoroughly murderous in terms of performances. Ransome gives a more varied performance compared to Peck's husky monotone but neither is particularly suited to the antiquated, at times pretentiously Shakesperian dialogue; yet the restraint of both seems studied by comparison with Caven's over-the-top performance seeming like a refugee from Deadwood. Director/writer/co-editor Anthony O'Brien makes a game of obfuscating the plot through long silences and cutting away from vague exchanges, relying on hallucinations to suggest character motivations and flashbacks in the form of dreams. The meeting of the brothers and their father is intriguing as it suggests that the father has not "gone native" so much as in their delirium come to embody everything mysterious about the unfamiliar territory (including Native American mysticism). The climax finds the sheriff delivering a mouthful of expository dialogue with the South African actor doing an uneven but exaggerated western drawl during what should be an emotional moment, and a further plot development seems tacked on.

Video

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The beautiful photography digitally-lensed production is well-rendered by Well Go's single-layer MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen encode. Shadows in some scenes occasionally become a little gray, but this may be an effect (or side-effect) of some of the color correction and film effect filtering.

Audio

Audio options - typical of Well Go USA - include an immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 downmix in which voices are clear and some sound effects reverberate across the Alaskan wilderness and the surround channels.. English HoH subtitles are also included.
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Extras

On the Audio Commentary by director Anthony O'Brien, the director starts off by revealing that the film took three years to edit and that this final cut was from-scratch effort undertaken in January of this year. It is a technically-oriented commentary in which he discusses the Romanian location shooting, the authenticity of the sets (the brothers' cabin was entirely authentic with a working chimney), the extreme weather that cost the shoot three days, and the high shooting ratio (including a large amount of second unit footage). The two brief behind the scenes segments "Gunfight" (2:35) and "Nightmare" (1:27) reveal him to be a camera-oriented director, describing in great detail to the crew and the cast the choreography of these sequences in terms of actor and camera movement simultaneously.
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The interview with actors Josh Peck and Elisa Lasowski (8:20) is a poorly-shot and coordinated effort with Peck offering glib replies to Lasowski's questions and joking about his "baller lifestyle". Despite tripping over the English language once or twice, Lasowski actually manages to provide a clearer idea of the plot than the film itself. The interview with actor Julian Glover (7:27) is a much more dignified affair as the actor reveals that he was initially concerned about the violence in the script until he saw how the director conveyed this visually in some of the raw footage. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (1:35) and previews for other releases (which initially play as start-up trailers).

Overall

The end result is an interesting failure that seems as much the result of self-important scripting as the director's inability to leave the project alone having carried out a number of unsatisfactory collaborative edits with Jake York whose other credits are of the jump scare variety like Oren Peli's similarly delayed Area 51 and The Possession of Michael King before carrying out a final from-scratch edit on his own in January of this year.
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