Blu-ray Review: Kill the Messenger 2014

Kill the Messenger 2014

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Paz Vega, Oliver Platt, Richard Schiff, Michael K. Williams.

Plot: Journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) happens upon a story that not only leads to the origins of America's crack epidemic but also alleges that the CIA was well-aware of the dealers who were smuggling cocaine into the U.S. and using the profits to arm Nicaraguan rebels.

My Review and Thoughts:

Film Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This is a very tension filled, tightly directed thriller that leaves the viewer satisfied in creating a thought provoking ordeal. This is based on two different books: Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb, and, Kill the Messenger by Nick Schou. This has a wonderful cast of actors. The amazing talented Jeremy Renner in a fantastic performance, that is believable and very intense with intrigue. This is also his first feature that he has produced in the film making world.

This is directed by Michael Cuesta, who I have followed since seeing his amazing one of a kind, independent masterpiece of film, 2001’s L.I.E. He also directed another one of my favorite films and is an often overlooked film, 12 and Holding. Both L.I.E. and 12 and Holding are brilliant, original, thought provoking and emotional films that leave the viewer, in total, cinematic bliss. He is a director, that is able, to hold the story and craft a somewhat, mastery, around the subject matter of his films. Simply put, I feel, he can capture real life on screen, and make you believe what is happening on screen as truth.

This is a thought provoking story in that it is based, in some truth. The movie does showcase some of the real truths, of the real life story. Gary Webb who is a journalist wrote some articles in 1996 for the San Jose Mercury News. The book Dark Alliance, is based on those articles. What Gary wrote and believed, was the CIA helped and supported the cocaine trafficking into America. The CIA helped and worked with Nicaraguan Contra Rebels and knew about, and allowed, the overall distribution of the drugs causing the massive crack epidemic. Now Webb was basically laughed at, and made a fool of when he wrote about this truth. Dark Alliance showcases that reality in exposing the truth, and then the truth not being taken serious. 

Webb’s book can be looked at in two ways, as a truthful masterpiece of freedom of information, or as made up lies. One thing that is the truth, is Webb knew and understood what had happened, and I whole heartily believe in his book, and his truth, that he discovered. Inside the book, he brings forth over 450 references and first hand testimony of those who were involved. Now where the second book comes in, written by Nick Schou, which the movie is titled by, Kill the Messenger. This, the biography of Gary Webb, and his ultimate struggle to release the truth and the back lash he received because of it. Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack-cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb, mixed with the book Dark Alliance, is what this movie is based on. Gary Webb to me, is a hero, and a truth seeker, and a man that believed in the truth, and gave the world the ultimate inside look of how certain spots of our own government is nothing more than criminals.

Gary Webb was a pioneer of truth, and a passionate person, that spread the truth and the ultimate cover-up of the CIA and its asinine past. Sadly Gary Webb in 2004 was found dead. Magically ruled a suicide, possible, but I feel unlikely, but like I say it’s possible, because Webb was destroyed, and depressed, and basically bullied, possibly into suicide, because the world of journalism that he loved so much, turned its back on him. Since his death, and since the book written by Nick Schou, many journalists are opening their eyes and seeing the truths that Gary Webb wrote about. LA Weekly, Chicago Tribune, Esquire have all taken up the charge in defending Webb or at least writing articles talking of what Webb found. Webb was shunned, destroyed, and in my viewpoint, ultimately assassinated, if not by a shady cover-up, then by the reality of being shunned and destroyed and led into suicide. It has always amazed me, how truth seekers, and pioneers of creating the path, to the real truth, are always picked on, and destroyed, and after they have been murdered, it seems the wool over the eyes have been pulled away, and the truths, that already had been real, slowly starts to take shape, and be looked at, as fact. Webb was 49 years old. Webb was shot twice in the head. Ruled a suicide and the truth was washed away. Webb wrote a three part article for the San Jose Mercury News, doing his job as an investigator journalists. He went about uncovering the ultimate lies, and hidden truths, and it cost him, his reputation, his stability, and ultimately his life. 

Webb is truth. Webb is what, freedom of information, and freedom of truth is all about. He brought the ultimate truth out, and like all horrible truths, there are those who wished to cover it up, with more lies. Thankfully as time has gone on, Webb is considered by many, and all truth filled journalists, and not bought, and paid for, big corporate journalists; that he is the very essence of what being a journalist is about. He brings real truth, no matter how bad, or horrible it may be.  

Jeremy Renner, I absolutely love as an actor, and his role as Gary Webb in this film, just shows his acting ability in all its brilliance, and utterly fantastic craft at performing meaningful moments in film. He has away with capturing, his characters. I feel as the character of Gary Webb, he gives not only, a passionate emotional, and tense filled performance, but he makes you ultimately believe, the situation happening on screen, as if your there, and it’s taking place before you. No matter if he is starring as an action hero, or a drama performance, he is able to succeed in perfection in whatever he does. To be honest, I first got to notice him, in the independent 2002 film, about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, simple titled Dahmer. Then he also was in Michael Cuesta's second film, 12 and Holding, which makes the role in, Kill the Messenger, his second film acting for Cuesta.

It’s a wonderful film on the horrors that can happen, when a person decides to speak and take on the totalitarian style government which was the CIA in the past. There is a fine line in what freedom details. We have the idea that America is free, and Americans have the freedom they so richly confess, and believe in. In reality freedom only goes so far, specifically it fails, when one decides to go against the norm, or the follow the leader mentality. Gary Webb was a man, who opened a box and released Pandora. We here in America, specifically in the 80’s and 90’s, and yes even today, are inside that box, and when someone comes along, and decides to open the box, and unravel the control and the manipulation, and allow the people to unplug from the Matrix, that is our government, one can be destroyed, and easily rid of. Gary Webb was a brilliant man who defied the norm, and trashed the box of control, and opened the truth.

Renner does the character justice. Michael Cuesta brings to life a wonderful man, and a dark story that should have never happened, and anyone that ridiculed Webb, or spoke out against him, or trashed him in the papers, are nothing more than Nazi’s controlling the propaganda of the media. 

Audio/Video: 5/5

I saw nothing wrong with this Blu-ray. The video is crisp, vibrant in colors and amazingly sounds like listening to perfection. I could not pick out any flaws in video or audio. I think what stands out is Universal’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. It gives a sense of the tight emotional reality to the story, it helps build the tension and ultimate dread of suspense, on just what Webb was feeling, and the overall horror of the reality of the subject. The sounds, let you experience every spot that Renner’s character is at or taken to. The audio surround allows you to hear the prison year and also the courtroom and so on. It’s filmed at times like real life as they would say filmed as a film but gives a documentary reality at times through the sounds and effects taking place. The spot on 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is at its best. There is no flaw in my viewpoint with this video that you watch. I could see everything and felt everything. I feel those who love cinema as an art form will take to this film because of the high class feel and look of the video transfer. This is possibly video art on Blu-ray. I loved the vibrant colors. It seems even when the darkness of the film’s subject comes into play the video is classed in a reality of its own. Beautiful transfer simply put.

Video Rating: 5/5
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Audio Rating: 5/5
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Extras Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Sadly even though the blu-ray comes with some nice extras, I was a major let down. This easily could have benefited on the blu-ray. I mean the story itself warrants extra features. A documentary on the subject, behind the scenes on the truth would have been nice. There is an overview of the subject that is sadly no more than 3 minutes.  Interviews would have been nice. You do get another no more than 3 minute video on the cast. The biggest special features are the deleted scenes and the commentary, other than those two, nothing to speak about. Extras would have been awesome on this subject, but sadly this was neglected and to me was a smack in the face. Even though the movie was amazing, and the blu-ray qualities where amazing, the extra features left me stale.

It does come with a Digital HD download.
Audio Commentary: Director Michael Cuesta is a good commentary on the creation of the film and also picks out the differences in the subject in book form and film form. I enjoyed listening to this, in that I was able to find out the production and development of the film.
You do get a total of 6 Deleted Scenes with the option of the director’s commentary.
A video on the Cast by the producers. No more than 3 minutes.
A short on Crack in America. No more than 3 minutes on the subject.

A small short on Filming in Georgia.

Overall: 4/5

I really enjoyed this film, and I equally enjoy the persona of who Webb was. He believed, and he fought, and he succeeded, to shine, and show the public, that even America’s government, has its shadowy figures, and it’s shadowy past.

Cuesta created a wonderful film. I applaud him for bringing to lite this man, and his story, and sadly his downfall.