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SEVEN POUNDS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper, Woody Harrelson
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: March 31, 2009

“It’s time.”

Film ***1/2

Seven Pounds is one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching films I’ve ever seen. It takes quite a lot to get me teary eyed during a film, but this one struck me really hard in its last act. In other words, I wouldn’t recommend watching a double feature of this and Bridge to Terabithia.

In leading up to the finale, the film is pretty much a mystery surrounding what the lead character is doing and why. This particular type of story structure, as frustrating as it can be at times, is why the final moments in the film are so potent. I was left feeling so moved beyond words by the sheer notion of what had caused everything to turn out the way it did.

Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is a man suffering from an overwhelming state of guilt. It’s clear that something very tragic happened to him in the past. Though we get numerous flashbacks to the tragic event in question, nothing is quite clear of what happened other than the fact that he became a widow as a result.

In spite of his guilt, Ben is putting into motion a very personal mission. He is determined to track down seven specific individuals who are suffering in one way or another. Being a representative of the IRS, he obviously has access to a long list of names.

And Ben is quite careful in his selections, as he will only help out seven people who are good and truly worthy of such help. For example, he approaches a nursing home supervisor in need of a bone marrow operation. But when he discovers the man has been gravely mistreating an ailing patient, Ben immediately refuses his services.

Eventually, Ben is able to track down several people he sees worthy of helping, including Ezra (Woody Harrelson), a blind who happens to be quite a talented piano player. Also on Ben’s radar is Emily (Rosario Dawson) whose heart is about to give out. He grows closer to her, eventually falling for her.

I really don’t want to spoil any further details of the story, but I will delve into several terrific things about the film, the first being the presence of Will Smith. Like George Clooney and Tom Cruise, Smith is a huge movie star who makes the occasional studio blockbuster, but at the same time puts that star persona to good use by making high quality films you wouldn’t normally expect from such a big named star. I truly believe that a film like Seven Pounds couldn’t have been made without Smith’s involvement.

As for Smith’s performance, it’s one of his most distinctive and revealing turns to date. It’s also a risky one in the sense that he has to execute certain gestures in helping to keep his character’s motivations a secret until the very end of the film. Between this and his performance in I Am Legend, the man once known as The Fresh Prince is establishing himself as a truly powerful dramatic actor.

The film also reunites Smith with director Gabriele Muccino, whom he worked with two years ago on The Pursuit of Happyness. Though it may not be the popular opinion, I find Seven Pounds to be an even stronger picture, which saying a lot since I also found Happyness to be extremely moving. I may be in the minority on this opinion, since this film may be a bit too much for sensitive viewers to handle.

As for myself, I found Seven Pounds to be both emotionally shattering and ultimately beautiful by the final frame. That’s a rare combination to have, but then again few films have affected me in the way this one has. Though the depressing subject matter may be a bit too much for some to stomach, I think those who want a powerfully told drama will be both rewarded and very moved in the end.

Video ****

The film is also an exquisitely shot piece of work, courtesy of cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, which is the first and foremost reason the Blu-ray is worth checking out. There’s an equal amount of light and dark sequences, both of which turn out in outstanding form in the 1080p, especially the darkly lit ones. From beginning to end, the picture quality exudes nothing but the best that HD has to offer.

Audio ***1/2

Though the film itself is mainly one driven by dialogue, the Dolby TrueHD mix manages to make the drama even more effective. A number of sequences do involve some crucial sound elements, most notably the sequence of the tragic event in Ben’s past. And the music score by Angelo Milli is heard quite beautifully and enhances the effect of the film even further. Of course, dialogue delivery is thoroughly strong and effective.

Features ***1/2

Quite a perfect batch of extras on this Sony release, starting with a commentary with director Gabriele Muccino, Deleted Scenes and a number of nicely handled featurettes, including “Seven Views On Seven Pounds”, “Creating The Perfect Ensemble”, “The Box Jellyfish: World's Deadliest Co-Star” and “Emily's Passion: The Art Of The Printing Press”.

Also included is a second disc which includes a bonus Digital Copy of the film.

Summary:

Seven Pounds is one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. Wonderfully acted by Will Smith and the entire cast and beautifully directed by Gabriele Muccino, I’m sure that this is one film that will stay with people long after they see it.

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