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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...No Hope...Just Principals..." - Brassed Off on BLU RAY, 21 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Brassed Off [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)

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
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Jul 2012 23:04:17 BDT
First class review - you took the words right out of my mouth. An iconic film for anyone who believes people are more important than profit and those who would like to understand what the Tories have been about for 35 years (smashing up everything that gave working people power and dignity) since Thatcher threw the One Nation Conservatism (so beloved of the men (like the much maligned Ted Heath and Harold Macmillan) who saw the horrors of fascism in the 30s-40s and who helped put our society together again in the 50s-60s) into the bin in favour of reducing the 95% to the status of slaves at the lowest possible rate for the 5%. This film captures the rage, the anger - and as you say never more relevant than today when yet another gang of Tories - Thatcher and her sons and heirs Major - Blair - Brown - Cameron - carry on smashing up our country, our communities, our companies, our families. The film is far more eloquent than I can be - and this reviewer has capture that well. I'll order it (not least to replace the cringe-making comments on the box containing my current copy "Funny .... romantic .... play it again and again" (Elle) - I can only assume the person who wrote that never watched the film or has mixed it up with another.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jul 2012 12:27:08 BDT
Coughdrop says:
I agree the review is first class. Everyone should watch this superb film. I also agree with comments re the smashing up our of our country, our communities our companies, our families. I was born in 1948 and i have been through a lot, i am so heartbroken to see what Cameron, Brown, Blair, Major and the mother Thatcher have done to our country, they should hang there head in shame. Before anyone asks, i am not a RED i just love GREAT BRITAIN (i'm English) and we need to restore the pride we once had especially for our grandchildren.
I have the first release of Brassed Off but i will be buying the Bluray copy and give my old one to charity.

Posted on 5 Aug 2012 14:21:55 BDT
Bob Bob Bob says:
"Charge of the Light Brigade"? I think you'll find it's the William Tell overture by Rossini, no wonder you work for "Reckless" records, how very apt!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 17:39:20 BDT
Mark Barry says:
You're right - it is "William Tell". Should have spotted that error.
Corrected it in the review...
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Review Details



Mark Barry

Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 16