The Retrieval (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 22, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“The Retrieval” is an engrossing film with solid writing/directing by Chris Eska and wonderful performances from its actors. “The Retrieval” is recommended!
TITLE: The Retrieval
FILM RELEASE: 2013
DURATION: 94 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Original Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Written and Directed by Chris Eska
Executive Producer: Denis Chateau, Philippe Diaz
Produced by Alain Dahan
Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky
Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier
Editing by Nelly Quettier
Casting by Helene Bernardin
Production Design by Jacques Dubus, Thomas Peckre, Michel Vandestien
Set Decoration by Bernard Leonard
Costume Design by Dominique Gregogna, Martine Metert, Robert Nardone
Ashton Sanders as Will
Tishuan Scott as Nate
Keston John as Marcus
Bill Oberst Jr. as Burrell
Christine Horn as Rachel
Alfonso Freeman as Isaac
Raven Nicole LeDeatte as Abby
Jonathan Brooks as Royce
1864: as war ravages the nation, on the outskirts of the civil War, it is business as usual for slave-owners and traders. The Retrieval follows Will (Ashton Sanders), a fatherless thirteen-year-old boy who survives by working with a white bounty hunter gang. They send him to earn the trust of runaway slaves in order to lure them back to the south.
On a dangerous mission into the free north to find Nate (Tishuan Scott), a fugitive freedman, things go wrong and Will and Nate find themselves on the run. As the bond between them unexpectedly grows, Will becomes consumed by conflicting emotions as he faces a gut-wrenching final decision. Thrilling, but grounded in historical research, The Retrieval serves as an insight into the grey period between slavery and freedom and the horrific moral dilemma that comes with being forced to betray your fellow man.
From writer and director Chris Eska comes the film “The Retrieval”, which was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.
A film that takes place a year before the end of the Civil War, the story begins with a young 13-year-old Black boy named Will (portrayed by Ashton Sanders) coming to a farmhouse alone.
He is escorted to the barn where other slaves are hiding and sleeping. But as the slaves sleep, Will sneaks out and finds his uncle Marcus (portrayed by Keston John) and slavehunter Burrell (portrayed by Bill Oberst Jr.) and his posse waiting for him.
Will gives the slavehunters the information and immediately, Burrell and his men capture the slaves.
We learn that Will has been working with with Marcus as Black slavehunters in hopes they can get money but also secure their freedom.
Burrell gives Marcus a mission, he must find a man named Nate (portrayed by Tishuan Scott), who works as a gravedigger for the Union and bring him back to Burrell. In return, he and Will will be released of their obligations of working for him. If they fail, he will find and kill them.
Knowing this, Marcus and Will head out to find Nate. While Will doesn’t like ratting on other slaves and doesn’t like how Marcus thinks about himself, he knows that to survive, Marcus is all he has for family.
When they find Nate, they tell him a story that his brother is dying and wants to see Nate one last time before he dies. And that they risked their lives to give him that information.
Weary of following them, Nate decides to believe them and heads out with them to go back down South.
But what happens when during the journey back home, Will starts to like Nate but also face the dangers of the battle between the North and the South?
“The Retrieval” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. While the picture quality is clear and full of detail, especially during the closeups, it’s important to note that the film feels to clear as it seems as if it was made for television. Granted, the process of converting a digital film to look like film is a laborious process and very expensive.
But with that being said, the film looks great but has a different visual feel than what you would come to expect from a Civil War film. The colors are intentionally muted and are not vibrant, but for the most part, picture quality is very good!
“The Retrieval” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. There is a lot of whispering in the film, so some scenes are hard to understand at times. But fortunatelyy, the majority of the film features crystal clear dialogue and ambiance of the outdoor surroundings which you can hear through the surround channels, including the sounds of cannons and guns being shot from afar.
“The Retrieval” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Chris Eska
- Deleted Scene – (4:08) The only deleted scene from the film.
- Deleted Scene with Commentary – (4:08) Director Chris Eska’s commentary of why the scene was deleted.
- SAG Foundation Actors Conversation – (49:08) Q&A with director Chris Eska, actors Tishuan Scott, Keston John, Bill Oberst Jr., Christine Horn and Alfonso Freeman.
- Interviews from the Leeds International Film Festival – (3:50) Featuring interviews with director Chris Eska and the Australian viewers who watched the film.
- Press Booklet (BD-Rom Only)
- Stunt Rehearsals – (5:57) Featuring the actors practicing their stunts.
- Trailer – (2:27) The theatrical trailer for “The Retrieval”.
When it comes to “Civil War” films, there is somewhat of an expectancy of storyline, may it be Union vs. Confederate or the adversities of the slaves or from a soldier from either side. But “The Retrieval” is rather interesting because it’s a storyline that you don’t usually see in film.
The story about two Black slavehunters helping out their boss by infiltrating locations and betraying Black slaves is something that may seem too taboo to even see in a film.
But fortunately, writer and director Chris Eska put a lot of thought into the development of his characters.
Will, the young boy who doesn’t make the decisions, he does whatever his Uncle Marcus tells him.
Marcus is only concerned about the money and nothing else. But knows Will depends on him because Will has no other family.
And for Will, his reason for doing what he does, is hopes that he can reunite with his father.
And when the two are given the task to find a man named Nate and bring him back to their slavehunter boss, it’s not going to be an easy retrieval because the war is near it’s end, and the war has become violent, bloody and they are in the middle of it. Walking through fields and gunfire between the warring soldiers.
For Marcus, he just wants Will to do his job but for Will, he starts to grow to like Nate. To see someone who is a good man and something much different than his Uncle Marcus.
And the more he bonds with Nate, he begins to feel guilty and remains conflicted. Because while he likes Nate as a person, he knows that if he doesn’t turn him in, their slavemaster boss will kill them.
“The Retrieval” is a heartfelt, thrilling film that does give insight in the gray area of slavery and freedom but the way the film is structured is well-done.
While many may question why the men would bring Nate back when they are already with the Union, it goes to show in that era, not knowing how much power the slavehunter has over them and the threat of being hunted down and also them hunting your loved ones is not an easy decision to make, especially for a young boy like Will who has conflicted emotions about the entire ordeal.
The performance by Ashton Sanders and Tishuan Scott was great but if there was one small caveat for me, it’s more of the visual display of the film. For a Civil War film, it appears that the HD makes the film too clear, while watching on film, gives the impression that lends to an era’s credibility, “The Retrieval” looks too clean for its own good.
Still, the film looks very good on Blu-ray and the lossless soundtrack does showcase ambiance from the outdoor environments and you also get a few special features such as commentary and director/cast Q&A included as well.
Overall, “The Retrieval” is an engrossing film with solid writing/directing by Chris Eska and wonderful performances from its actors.
“The Retrieval” is recommended!
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