The movie critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Michele Arbir.
If you are an animal lover, Gorillas in the Mist will put you through an emotional wringer. Gripping, tragic, and haunting, but ending with hope. This movie is an adaptation of wildlife expert Dian Fossey’s autobiography with Sigourney Weaver in one of her best performances.
Midwesterner Fossey (Sigourney Weaver) leaves the United States for Africa, where she studies the gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda. As Fossey develops a bond with them, she also becomes wary of the poachers who prey on them. Fearing that the gorillas will go extinct if humans continue to hunt them, she organizes a defense league to protect the animals; in doing so, though, she puts herself in an unsafe situation.
Gorillas in the Mist was released in 1988 and directed by Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter). The film received generally positive reviews from critics and received five Academy Award nominations and won two Golden Golden Globes awards in 1989. Maurice Jarre won for Best Original Score and Sigourney Weaver for Best Actress with many applauding both Weaver’s performance and the technical accomplishments of the movie.
Let’s talk about the technical side of things. The most exceptional elements of Gorillas in the Mist are these. The photography is magnificent, Apted is subtle and effective with it. First, he builds with wide shots to emphasize the strange, and beautiful terrain. There’s an enduring early scene in which Fossey and Sembagare are shown dwarfed by a sea of green vegetation. It’s beautiful and breathtaking. As the story moves on, Apted increasingly builds on closer and more intimate shots. Once Fossey (Weaver) has become more comfortable with her surroundings, the movie mirrors this. It’s the same way with the gorillas. Initially represented as alien creatures, (sorry, no pun intended) they gradually become familiar characters.
Sigourney Weaver is awesome as Fossey but the gorillas are the main focus. Even thirty years later whenever the cameras turn on the gorillas you feel you’re witnessing something truly remarkable. The production used a combination of real gorillas in the wild (beautifully shot on location), gorilla suits, and chimpanzees in make-up, all designed by horror artist Rick Baker.
This is such a wonderful movie. I just don’t know how to express how grateful I am that people like Dian Fossey existed. I can only hope there are still people like her out there. She’s an example of how people should treat animals. Sigourney Weaver does a very good job at delivering a solid performance based on the real-life Mountain Gorilla conservationist and researcher ‘Dian Fossey’. Emotionally moving and gratifying in places. Be sure to have your tissue because you are guaranteed to shed a tear.
Gorillas In The Mist gets a decent upgrade to Blu-Ray courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment, but with it comes many issues that could have been avoided in parts. The transfer is sourced from a reasonably solid older master provided by Universal Pictures that appears nearly identical to the preexisting Universal release. The biggest issue with this disc is not the occasional speck of damage to the print, but rather the ugly compression artifacts and occasional macroblocking that plague most of the film. The presentation struggles in when it comes to textural detail, as the underlying transfer has been greatly smoothed over with digital tools. The resulting image loses much of the precise detail found in the beautiful photography. The colors are one of the standout aspects of the disc, as the green of the lush jungle wows pretty splendidly. Skin tones look natural, and the presentation offers up some fairly deep black levels. The disc experiences an extremely minimal of black crush, but nothing overly problematic. Mill Creek Entertainment has provided a Blu-Ray disc that is a step up from DVD, but not the massive improvement you might expect thanks to digital tinkering with the master.
The film comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is capable and well balanced. Environmental effects play a substantial role in the film, and this track brings these elements to life quite splendidly. The use of the rear channels to create a fully enveloping world works quite well. The directionality is quite precise so sounds always present as natural when coming from their respective points. Dialogue mostly comes through crisp and clear without being overwhelmed by any of the other sounds. There are just a few instances in the core sound mix where some of the dialog gets slightly unintelligible, but this is not a fault with the disc. This movie is not an action powerhouse, but activity in the low end is experienced in points. Mill Creek Entertainment has delivered a stable track for a film that capably brings this environment to life.
There are no special features included on this disc. The only notable aspect of this release is the “VHS-Style” slipcover that ships with the packaging sporting some superior cover art.
Gorillas In The Mist is an emotionally stirring movie that explores the fascinating life of a true original. Sigourney Weaver delivers a standout performance in the lead role that is complemented by a strong directorial effort from Michael Apted. The cinematic prowess behind the scenes does a great job of elevating the film as a whole. Mill Creek Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray disc that has some definite faults with the master, but it is just about equal to the Universal disc that is available. If you are looking to purchase the film, this is a budget-friendly release that will satisfy less picky consumers.
Gorillas In The Mist is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.