A fascinating little experimental project from "Good Will Hunting" director Gus Van Sant, "Gerry" reteams the director with "Hunting" stars Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. The plot of the film is minimalist - two guys named Gerry drive across the Southwest to visit "the thing" - we're never told what it is. They arrive at the trail, walk for a while, then decide to go their own way to try and avoid "the tourists". When they eventually give up on their quest to find "the thing", they turn around and decide to walk back to their car.
But, which way was the car?
The two begin to make their way across the desert, carrying nothing besides the clothes on their backs (black shirts, which are never good for the desert), since they didn't bring any supplies. There's little dialogue in the film, as well - only about five minutes of it scattered throughout the 103-minute running time. Better yet, Van Sant goes about as far against the quick-cut mentality of today's cinema as one can go - nearly every shot goes on for a few minutes, with many going on for as long as several. The opening sequence of the film follows the Gerrys silently as they drive down the highway - for about six minutes. Most of the film plays out in real time, including a complete sunset and, in one of the film's most visually amazing moments - a complete sunrise as the Gerrys walk across a desolate flat. There are no opening credits, and only minimal score.
Van Sant, the actors and cinematographer Harris Savides have managed to create a hypnotic film. Filmed in Argentina and Death Valley, Savides captures some of the most awe-inspiring footage I've seen in a film in ages. The actors are often postioned against vast, still backgrounds - miniscule men lost and helpless against nature. One particular highlight involves one of the Gerrys somehow getting himself stuck on the top of a huge rock. The other Gerry spends several minutes trying to build a "dirt matress" for him to land on. Despite the lack of dialogue (some of which recalls the scene in "Beavis and Butthead Do America" where the two got lost in a similar environment), there's a lot one can read into the picture (their being lost after giving up the search for "the thing", man vs. nature, etc.), which largely leaves interpretation up to the audience.
I found this to be a haunting, visually amazing, memorable picture. Yet, this is probably one of the most polarizing films in years. Audiences at film festivals were separated into two distinct groups - those who distinctly loved it and those who distinctly hated it. Still, for those in the mood for something quite different, I highly recommend it.
VIDEO: Again, "Gerry" contains some of the most beautiful imagery I've seen in a film in ages. Thankfully the transfer, presented by Miramax in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, is up to the task. Sharpness and detail remain terrific throughout the film, as the image remained rock solid, aside from some scenes that appeared to be intentionally soft.
The only noticable fault with the transfer is the presence of edge enhancement during some of the brighter outdoor sequences. Other than that minor annoyance, the picture remained largely clean and clear, with no compression artifacts and only minimal specks on the print used. Colors were beautifully rendered, with the occasional vivid colors of the sunsets and the desert color palette looking well-saturated and without concern.
SOUND: "Gerry" is presented by Miramax in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's sound design is - much like the rest of the film - rather minimalist. The sounds of the pair's footsteps crunching the sand beneath turns into the "score" of some scenes, but the score itself occasionally enters. Surrounds are hardly used. Ambient noises, although rarely heard, are clearly captured. Dialogue seemed to be a little low in volume, requiring me to turn the film up a bit.
EXTRAS: The only extra, aside from a few promos for other Miramax titles, is "Salt Lake Van Sant", a 13-minute featurette that captures the cast and crew trying to quickly capture an important sequence. No interviews or anything, just an interesting view of the cast and crew at work in the middle of nowhere.
Final Thoughts: Some people loved it, some people hated it. I thought it was a successful, original film that was compelling, hypnotic and beautifully filmed. Miramax's DVD doesn't offer much in the way of supplements, but it offers fine audio/video quality. Recommended for those seeking something different.
The Film *** 1/2