Looking over some other opinions on Miral, most take offense with the stance. They see a one-sided narrative in the midst of an ugly, long standing, and hurtful Middle Eastern conflict. They don’t see a girl, from a young age, choosing to pick a side, forced into conflict because it is all around her. She believes in what she is doing and fighting for it. Sides don’t matter; the fact that children are brought into it with such furor and anger does.
It’s not often a critic will scrounge other reviews before their own, but Miral is different. It’s making a point, and there is a direct correlation between what one feels about the conflict and this film. That’s a shame. There’s too much here to treat the work as disposable based on personal feelings; picking sides seems to be the problem in the first place.
Miral has problems, sure. As a film, the first act is all over the place and chaotic, yet arguably the calmest bit of the movie. Characters are introduced with dramatic, scaled title cards, only two truly deserving of having their name sprawled across the screen in such a way. William Dafoe drops in and drops out, wildly out of place and in many ways somewhat meaningless to the film at large. It’s all for marketing though, putting his name and face on the cover.
Once Miral focuses, settling down to present the Israel/Palestinian conflict through singular eyes. Miral (Freida Pinto) becomes part of the conflict, an tumultuous upbringing with an alcoholic mother giving the woman a reason to fight. Seeing the death toll rise personally draws her further in, joining rebels as they fight for what they believe is their land. The cover of the home video release asks, “Is this the face of a terrorist?” In logical terms, yes, yet with the backstory in play, it becomes more complex than that.
Miral was completed with the assistance of multiple countries, their funding, and their support. With the crux of Miral being a conflict between nations, the opening credits take on a heavier weight at the end of the film, those countries working in tandem towards a specific purpose. That’s the goal of Miral, although how it chooses to represent that seems to be the source of some contention.
You’ll rarely see a film enjoy playing with your mind with such rampant, jarring, and forceful color grading. Miral director Julian Schnabel likes it warm, scorching, freezing, cold, colorful, intense, saturated, over saturated, bleeding, monochromatic, and something else that’s likely been missed. Sometimes it has primaries, sometimes it doesn’t. Other times, it will fall in line with some orange and teal, because every movie has to do that at least once these days.
Yes, at times it’s hard to watch, a garish orange tinge suddenly swapped for a steely blue with a single edit. It’s wildly distracting, adding to the disconnect of the first act. Beyond the color, Schnabel adds his own additional flair, some lens effects to stretch and warp the images where needed for disorientation and distortion. If nothing else, Miral never totally looks the same twice.
Even the film stocks seem to be shuffled around and toyed with, fine grained 35 mm ditched for what appears to be a high quality 16 mm at random or for clear effect. Regardless, the AVC encode is more than up for the challenge, causing a handful of faults like chroma noise against a small selection of backdrops. Artifacting is otherwise forced to keep its distance.
Black levels prove exceptional throughout, possibly the one sticking point that never gives up no matter what’s being done to the film. Contrast on the other hand doesn’t receive the same treatment, clearing fine detail from the frame with some regularity, especially in the first act (see a pattern here?). Eventually, it does right for the audience’s eyesight, calming down and producing an image that is bright, but not sweltering.
Unless colors blotch it out, the final aspect is outstanding detail, facial definition creeping into almost every frame. This is a gorgeously textured film, the landscapes spectacular in their clarity and close-ups simply superb on almost all fronts. The only definition downer comes during the stock footage used to show the conflict as it was over the years, the taped source material obviously a dramatic step down and no fault of any encode.
Miral’s DTS-HD mix is constant, lovingly crafting an accurate, lively soundfield even when one isn’t needed. Crickets chirp at night, gunfire can be heard in the distance, a wedding is outstandingly aggressive, and markets provide a constant stream of chatter.
A brief shoot-out on the streets at 48-minutes is incredible in its fury, surely the aural highlight of the disc. That is, of course, if you don’t consider the jolt-inducing jet fly-over at 1:20:24 that literally comes out of nowhere and is, simply put, loud as hell. A perfectly suited mix that keeps the conflict always on the viewer’s mind, just like it is for the characters.
Extras begin with a commentary from director Julian Schnabel and producer Jon Kilik. That’s followed by three short deleted scenes and a decent enough making of that’s 14-minutes long. Julian Schnabel Studio Tour takes the viewer into the director’s art studio to show some of his non-film pieces. An extensive filmmaker Q&A with cast and crew at an unspecified screening runs for a half hour, rounding off the disc.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.