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The Breaking Point Criterion Blu-ray Review

The Breaking Point.jpg

“The Breaking Point” is an underrated classic.

Directed by the prolific Michael Curtiz (best known for “Casablanca”) and written by the legendary author Ernest Hemingway, “The Breaking Point” is a 1950 crime drama/thriller that centers around a broke/in debt fishing boat captain/father/husband named Harry Morgan. The film starts with Captain Morgan (insert jokes here) taking an engaged couple on a trip to Mexico. The woman (Leona) cozies up to Harry and there’s some clear tension between the two. Upon arrival, Harry and Leona get screwed over as Leona’s future husband bails on them all stranded them in Mexico without any money. Needing to get back home, Harry makes a lucrative deal with a shady lawyer to smuggle Chinese people. This is where things go horribly awry for Harry as his decisions cause his life to spiral out of control.

Despite being made 67 years ago, “The Breaking Point” feels startlingly relevant today as Hemingway’s script touches on timeless subject matters such as moral decisions, family, money, the impact your decisions have on others as well as some ahead of its time racial commentary in the film’s closing moments. Sure, one can argue the script meanders in the middle act and that it’s not exactly subtle as the ideas can be decidedly on the nose at times, but it’s easy to overlook the flaws as there’s so much to admire with this ambitious character study.

Part of what makes “The Breaking Point” stand out is the direction by Michael Curtiz and the cinematography by Ted D. McCord. The film has a very film noir esque vibe despite not exactly being a full film noir. There’s a lot going on aside from the usual noir tropes and the atmospheric setting itself is certainly very unique in that it’s largely set at sea, on a boat, on a dock, or seaside.

The acting here is also first rate. Patricia Neal steals the show as the witty, sexy, gold digger (although her singing leaves something to be desired). Her scenes with John Garfield light up the screen. Speaking of Garfield, he easily gives one of the best performances of his career here as the gruff, down on his luck Harry Morgan. The supporting cast that includes Phyllis Thaxter, Juano Hernandez, and so on is also noteworthy here.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The 2K digital restoration fares well here as the print of this B&W has clearly been cleaned up. Yes, there are print flaws to be sure, but it’s an upgrade nonetheless.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? While not the most lively track, it does the job.

Extras: * A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Stephanie Zacharek. * “The Breaking Point” trailer. * A segment of “NBC’s Today” showcasing Ernest Hemingway’s personal effects. * “On John Garfield”- John’s daughter Julie talks about her father’s fascinating life, career, family as well as his work on “The Breaking Point.” * “Fluid Style”- A video essay by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos about Michael Curtiz’s directorial style on “The Breaking Point.” * “Alan K. Rode”- Biographer and film historian Alan K. Rode talks about Michael Curtiz and “The Breaking Point.”

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August 10, 2017 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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