The final shot of The Blind Side, at least before the obligatory text to inform all of what happened in real life, is on Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock). She smiles if she has accomplished something great, and has now been rewarded for her struggle.
To her credit, she did take in a homeless, tall, hefty teenage boy. She put him on the proper path, and pushed him to do the right thing. That’s more than admirable and well beyond the call of duty, but this is not her story. This is the story of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and his fight, one filmed with a glossy, sugary coating that only Hollywood would find appropriate.
Oher grew up without a family, losing track of his father and being taken away from his drug-addicted mother. Amazingly, despite sleeping on a friend’s couch, he stays in school but struggles within the system. He turns his life around when he is taken in by Touhy, surely because of her push, but mostly because he wanted it. He put in the time, he turned in the effort, and he learned.
Why is The Blind Side so focused on Touhy then? Bullock plays her with an attitude, one that grows tiresome as the film moves on. Aside from Leigh Anne and Michael, everyone else in this film is degraded into a cliché. The Touhy’s daughter is wasted, having no scenes with any real relevancy to the plot, and Leigh Anne’s husband Sean (Tim McGraw) sits on the sidelines with no real input.
Side characters are painful, including the usual round of people who are against Michael at every step. Is there a need for the scene with Leigh Anne’s snooty friends discussing Michael? The only purpose it serves is to further make Leigh Anne look perfect, about the only thing this film succeeds at. No one in this family does anything wrong, especially Leigh Anne.
Even worse is how Michael is pushed to the side of this script, with an underdeveloped character that never gets to shine. Bullock has to own the screen, and that forcefulness of writer/director John Lee Hancock (or maybe even the discretion of the studio) is aggravating. By the end of the film, you know Oher played football, which is what you knew going in. There is no drama here because Oher isn’t given enough of the script, despite a fine effort by Quinton Aaron. That’s a shame.
Warner’s VC-1 encode for Blind Side is generally striking. For the most part, facial definition is superb, certainly within the realm of reference. A staggering amount of shots showcase immense depth and dimension. Pores, hair, and other features are readily discernible.
… all except for Sandra Bullock. Many of her scenes make her look smoothed over digitally. This is first noticed as she is shopping for Michael’s clothes in the Big & Tall shop, and continues for much of the film. Maybe the intent is to make her look younger by digital manipulation, or maybe additionally perfect. Whatever the case, the effect is a distraction. Her clothes and various jewelry are always sharp, so this does not seem to be an issue with the encode, but the source.
Environments can also appear stunning, off-setting the questionable smoothing. The grass of the football fields, the shots of the school grounds (every brick on the buildings is visibly delineated), foliage outside the Touhy home, and large crowds are a joy to look at. The Touhy home, with expensive couches and other furnishings, are visible down to the last stitch.
Colors are fantastically saturated. The first football game features red uniforms that are vivid and bright. Lush greens of the trees are spectacular, and flesh tones are only slightly elevated, well within acceptable, accurate range. Deep, rich, inky blacks are flawless, able to help maintain definition in all low light scenarios. A bright contrast never bleeds or blots out detail.
There are other problems, including a weird discoloration of the vent on the wall at 25:20. Compression artifacts creep into the frame regularly. The first lunch with Leigh Anne shows blocking against the wall and her neck as the camera pans right. Banding is evident against some walls, including Michael’s bedroom at 37:39. A striped shirt at 58:52 is also a nightmare of flickering.
There is surprisingly very little happening sonically in The Blind Side. Warner’s DTS-HD effort is certainly adequate, with prioritized dialogue and smooth bass when the soundtrack requires it. A party late that is blaring hip hop hammers the subwoofer pretty hard.
The scenes offering anything worthy of demonstration are the football sequences Every time linemen collide, there is a powerful thud in the low end. Shoulder pads clanging together are crisp, and the cheering crowd is prevalent in the surrounds. Music and other effects are balanced well, offering clear definition of what is being focused on.
Ambiance is sporadic, including mild street level noise and dogs barking. A car crash is disappointing, barely catching the subwoofer, but providing some clean highs. The shattering glass is quite effective.
The Real Michael Oher is a 10-minute interview where he tells his own story, although he does not mention any changes made for the film adaptation. Acting Coaches is a short featurette on the real coaches who made cameos. The Story of Big Quinton focuses on the first time actor, how he landed the role, and his upbringing.
Two sit down conversations are included. A three-parter between Sandra Bullock and Leigh Anne Touhy (5:11 total) makes you appreciate how Bullock perfectly captured Touhy’s mannerisms. Director John Lee Hancock sits down with the book’s author Michael Lewis for a far longer segment, split into eight parts and running a bit over 27-minutes. Four deleted scenes run seven minutes.