on 21 December 2007
The story is one of quiet desperation among miners who want to continue to work - despite the dangers and hardships of the profession - but know that in the 1980s and early 90s the politics are against them and that the possiblity of a management review to keep their pit open is a sham. With no hope on the horizon the colliery band is on the verge of breaking up when in walks a girl with a flugel...
I was never much of fan of brass bands - until I watched this film. The acting is superb, the script spot on but the music lifts the film into another dimension.
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 BLU RAY REISSUE ***
Set in the fictional mining town of Grimley in North Yorkshire ten years after the calamitous miner's strike of '84 to '85 - "Brassed Off" is about a colliery band with a 100-year history facing dissolution should their coal pit be closed by a determined powers-that-be (the Tory party bent on destroying the Trade Unions). It's a small British movie about big British things and when it was released into cinemas in 1996 - it delivered its laughter and tears with a passion that disarmed many at the time.
In fact - re-watching it now on this superlatively clean and crisply rendered 2012 transfer to BLU RAY (the absolute best its ever looked) - I'm once again struck by its huge heart and the great performances from a committed cast - and that mass job losses devastating a community - is still painfully relevant to this day.
Written and Directed by MARK HERMAN (who went on to do the equally good "Little Voice", "Purely Belter" and "The Boy In Stripped Pyjamas") - this is a working-class world where housewives have a filter cigarette and a cup of tea on the garden wall while their frayed padded-bras flutter on the clothesline in the morning breeze. People shop in Spar and Kwik Save and say "daft" and "bugger" all the time. Life is a struggle and money always a problem - and if the pit closes then there will literally be 'no future' for hundreds of men and women with families to support...
A lot of the movie's seething underbelly of anger and frustration is offset by self-deprecating jokes... When Danny the ailing conductor of the brass band (Pete Postlethwaite) gives his sappy son Phil a piggyback on his bicycle to band practice (a truly fantastic Stephen Tompkinson) - demented by four kids, a crippling mortgage and loan sharks - his had-enough wife Sandra (Melanie Hill) chucks plates at him as he leaves. Danny casually remarks as they cycle away - "...bit clumsy with the crockery your Sandra...". When local girl Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald) returns as a business sophisticate to do a feasibility study on the viability of the pit - she is fondly remembered by the pool-playing Andy (Ewan McGregor) for giving "top half only" when she was a teenager. Their rekindled romance is lovely and believably real.
But sadness and frustration are never far away from the surface either. A husband and wife cross each other on the footpath in the morning as their shifts intertwine - too tired, too rushed and too beaten to speak (Jim Carter - now the Butler Mister Carson in "Downton Abbey"). When they do talk, she remarks - "You used to be full of fight..." He drops his head - it's true. Wives and mothers huddle around kettle-drum fires for warmth and sit in makeshift tents outside the colliery gates where their constant chant goes up as the scabs pass the picket line - "The miners united - will never be defeated". When of course they were...
Debt Collectors punch out a desperate father in front of his wife and kids - and a few days later coldly remove all their worldly goods from their home. A friend manning the cash register in a local supermarket slips a £10 note behind the receipt to a mortified mum who can't afford 60p Orange Squash for her kids. At least a form of redemption is offered to them by way of their entry into the National Finals held in London - which they proudly attend and win with a rousing performance of the "William Tell Overature". And it all ends with Pete Postlethwaite's famously rousing speech to the assembled - tearful stuff full of pathos and heartbreak.
It opens with miners down a pit finishing their shift in the dimly lit caves - so there is some grain - but once they emerge into the yards from the lifts and from thereon in - this May 2012 Channel 4/Miramax release looks 'so' good it's positively disarming. Its default aspect is 1.85:1 - so it fills the full screen naturally (no bars top or bottom).
The extras are disappointing though. The interviews with the principal four are short and enthusiastic - but hardly great and the 'Sub Plot Extra' merely cobbles together scenes you've seen already - pretty pointless and irritating. The Biographies and Photo Galleries offer some info and images - but it's all terribly underwhelming and no real improvement on what went before. Still - there is that picture quality...
I honestly hadn't expected to be so 'moved' by "Brassed Off" this time around - yet the script got to me on several occasions. Stephen Tomkinson's character Phil dressed up and moonlighting as the clown Mr. Chuckles - when the injustice of his situation gets to him and he loses it at a children's party (his dialogue from earlier titles this review). Pete Postlethwaite's character lying in a hospital bed with blood in his lungs and sadness in his heart - when the boys gather outside in the dark and begin playing "Danny Boy" in a Brass Band style. I'll tell you - it's a hard man indeed who doesn't shed a tear.
To sum up - at last "Brassed Off" is given the transfer it thoroughly deserves - and if you've any affection at all for this ballsy little film - then you need to own it on BLU RAY. And what a great way to remember Pete Postlethwaite - exuding that everyman humanity that engendered him to a whole nation.
Nowt wrong with that ye daft buggers!
BLU RAY Specifications:
ASPECT: 1.85:1 ratio
1. Theatrical Trailer
2. Interviews: (a) Mark Herman (Writer & Director) (b) Ewan McGregor as Andy (c) Pete Postlethwaite as Danny (d) Tara Fitzgerald as Gloria
3. Sub Plots: Clips of the film edited together to give story arcs on say Gloria and Andy - father and son - Danny and Phil - and so on.
4. Biographies (Film, TV and Theatre): Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald and Ewan McGregor
5. Photo Libraries
on 22 November 2009
Got this the other day thinking it would pass the time. Well it did that alright, infact it did more. All the actors in it gave a performance of a lifetime. This has to be the best DVD I have seen in a long time. I am finding it hard to get anything to come near it now. The only down side is that it didn't last all day.
If you miss buying this, you will miss out on one of the best DVDs on Amazon. If there was a place for 100 stars I would be pushing the button. Excellent is not enough.
on 13 November 2002
I love this film.
I come from what was once a mining area and grew up in the Eighties when everyone was losing their jobs. The characters in this film are so real, you can imagine bumping into them on the street.
I cry everytime I watch this film. This is what life can be like. It even manages to make the brass band music sound amazing!!!!
on 19 September 2004
Set in a time following the 1984 miners strike, this film combines hard hitting politics as the Thatcher Government closes down the Nations coal industry, with humour, romance and really great brass band music played by the real Grimethorpe Colliery Band as the fictitious Grimley Colliery Band. It is set in the town of Grimley, a town whose main industry is its coal mine. Decisions are being made on the closure of Grimley pit amongst many others, and the film could have decended into despair as the miners learn that their only source of income is soon to cease. However exceptional performances by a totally convincing cast - including Pete Postlethwaite as Danny the elderly brass band leader, Tara Fitzgerald the newcomer to the band who hides a secret, Ewan McGregor who soon latches on to the considerable charms of Tara, and Stephen Tompkinson, Danny's son in the film, whose problems with his wife, and lack of money are only increased by his father who believes `nothing else matters but music`. With fantastic music permeating throughout the film as the plot unfolds this is a must see - then must see again, and again film. Will Danny realise his life time ambition of taking the Grimley band to the National Brass Band finals or will the band be forced to disband through lack of cash? You will have to see the film to find out - but the journey will be memorable and thought provoking on several levels. If you never see another film, don't miss this one it's pure quality throughout.
on 22 July 2005
As a tenor horn player and Ewan McGregor's future wife (he may not know it yet...), this film combines two of my favourite things in the world. Although the underlying plot line is less than cheerful, focussing on the many British pit closures of the 1980s and 1990s, I can't help but feel uplifted after watching it. For fans of brass banding, there is a cracking soundtrack, with many old favourites; even if you couldn't tell a tuba from a tubular bell, I bet you enjoy the music! All of the actors' performances are excellent, with Stephen Tomkinson's character exceptionally convincing. It is something of a tragi-comedy, with tears being raised nearly as often as laughter, but ultimately it is a feel-good film which will leave you with a smile on your face and, if you're lucky, a few brass band pieces stuck in your head for the following week!
on 7 April 2010
I started playing a horn (not a euphonium, though) because of this film.
I am a music-lover, most attached to classical music and especially medieval and renaissance music, and I had never actually listened to brass music (except at the annual Declaration of Christmas Peace in my home town Turku, Finland). As a matter of fact, I thought I didn't like brass music that much. I have always found that when people say they don't like choir music, they actually mean that they never heard a choir singing true to the pitch, little though they may know that. When I saw and heard Brassed Off, I realized that my relationship to brass music has been much the same. I wept when the Grimley Colliery Band (played in the film by a real colliery band) played William Tell and "The Land Of Hope And Bloody Glory" at the end of the film, and after having seen the film over again I borrowed a horn and started practicing. Now a proud horn-owner, I have joined a brass-band. This may not be the handsomest thanks one could give to a movie, as my audiences hitherto have been crying for quite other reasons than I did when watching Brassed Off, but it proves to you that this film widens a person's horizons and that the music in this film is really magnificently played.
on 16 December 2004
If like me you went through the morally bankrupt eighties accepting the view that the miners were a bunch of self interested thugs then you must see this film. I can't watch it without being deeply moved and feeling totally ashamed of my former opinion.
Of course, Pete Postlethwaite is, as ever, totally brilliant, the other members of the cast superb and the music, the music is just absolutely glorious. What more can you ask than to be entertained, educated an uplifted. Entertainment does not get any better than this!
on 1 February 2002
Even though classified a 'low budget' film this has to be one of the best movies in recent times. Humour, pathos, realism and so much more. I have laughed and cried with this movie several times already. It is a "Must-See"!
on 19 July 2009
Although not truly a Comedy, since the themes touched by this movie are rather serious (unemployment, lack of money, lack of hope, main character so ill that he almost dies), this delicious tiny British product, brings the UK Film quality back to its old high standards.
Pete Postlethwaite (Jurassic Park III, Dragonheart, The Usual Suspects, etc.) is the most versatile British actor of these days.
With a rough, tough face, which cannot be confounded with anybody else's, he manages to work splendidly through his eyes.
Yes, the man has some splendid and highly expressive eyes.
They say more than words.
The rest of the cast does not need to be introduced. They all work as masters of their trade and in unison, just like the Band they are supposed to represent.
But just to render justice to them I feel compelled to name them: Tara Fitzgerald, Ewan McGregor (the ever famous Wolverine in X-Men) and Steven Tompkinson (whose scenes of despair are truly shattering and moving).
They all are genuine actors and when they play, it comes through as natural as it should be.
The director Mark Herman, has knit one of the finest, most touching and memorable fabrics in movie making in ages.
This may be just a movie, but what a movie it is!
Compared to the usual trash we get usually dished up, this is by far the representation of how a movie ought to be done.
Great and powerful story, great and talented actors, magnificent and gritty photography, a musical score that does not invade your ears while people talk, a flowing pace that never leaves you asking for a cut.
Cuts come when they're needed.
This is a movie that should be seen everywhere in the world, because it does not just tell a British story, but rather takes Britain as an excuse for a much larger and pervading problem.
Besides, this movie was made in 1996 and it foretold the world as it is today.
This is really a movie worth watching.
You will pass about a 100 minutes with a product that makes you think and will stir you up like nothing before or since.
The ending is highly poetic and send you off with some hope in your hearts.
A thing that we all need these days.
I can only recommend it.
The transfer is clean, in the correct anamorphic 1:85 aspect ratio, and the sound is a conventional 2.0 Stereo, but crystal clear.
There are a few extras, but nothing really astonishing.
This DVD is just worth for the Movie it contains.
And what a movie!
Buy it and you will see that you won't be sorry.