Blu-Ray Review: ‘Wild’

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One of last year’s best films comes to home video with the Blu-ray release of Wild, director Jean-Marc Vallee’s follow-up to The Dallas Buyers Club. This time, it’s Reese Witherspoon in a transformative performance, shedding her glamorous image to portray a woman broken down by life’s pitfalls, trying to atone for her sins by putting herself through a grueling trial of physicality and determination.

Witherspoon portrays Cheryl Strayed, a woman struggling to cope with the loss of her mother and with the deterioration of her marriage. She seeks solace in drugs, alcohol, and anonymous sex, but any addict can tell you that these temporary distractions don’t offer long-term solutions. With her life crumbling all around her, Cheryl decides to embark on a solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from the Mexican border all the way to Canada.

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Wild unfolds in a somewhat unconventional narrative, as Cheryl’s exhausting 1100-mile trek is interspersed with flashbacks that gradually reveal the circumstances which drove her to the breaking point. Witherspoon turns in some the best work of her career, showing a grittiness and vulnerability that’s both mesmerizing and inspiring, and simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The Blu-ray release of Wild arrives with a gorgeous high-definition transfer that paints the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in stunning detail. The DTS-HD audio track also delivers, with such lifelike environmental sounds that you might be convinced you’re on the trail yourself. Your subwoofer might not get the same type of workout that an action blockbuster would offer, but Wild still sounds fantastic.

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At first glance, Wild seems to have a fully loaded selection of special features, but upon further examination you’ll find that the two longest featurettes (The Real Cheryl Strayed and The Real Location is the Best Location) clock in at less than 10 minutes apiece, and just about everything else is somewhere between the 3-minute to 5-minute mark. That comes up to a grand total of just over 60 minutes – not exactly a treasure trove of material.

The audio commentary from director Jean-Marc Vallee and Bruna Papandrea, and David Greenbaum is decent, but offers little insight into the complexities of the characters, choosing to focus more on the technical aspects of the filmmaking process. It would’ve been nice to get some input from Witherspoon herself, but viewers looking to find out more about shooting on location along the Pacific Crest Trail should find some interesting tidbits here.

Wild may have been overlooked during last year’s award season, but that shouldn’t be seen as a deterrent – Witherspoon garnered multiple nominations for her performance, but she was up against some pretty stiff competition, so it’s hard to count the loss against her. Nor should we – Wild is still one of 2014’s bet films, and certainly worth adding to your collection. Pick it up from Amazon by clicking on the image below.

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