Simple people, complex problems

The World Made Straight sets near the Appalachians, using a cross-section of this population to weave a story of historical significance between an oppressively gorgeous landscape.

There’s the history teacher played by Noah Wyle who barely strays from his role as Tom Mason on cable’s Falling Skies; A young, under educated 20-something Travis (Jeremy Irvine) whose home life is crumbling; Crude local drug kingpin Carlton (Steve Earle) presides and owns all.

Behind them are the remnants of the Civil War, with their lineage imperative to World Made Straight’s somber story. It’s easy to see how little this corner of the country has lacked progress. They smoke enough cigarettes to support an industry. Their trucks are rusting. No one is without a gun. Homes are architecturally old fashioned, their amenities often hand made, the internet is a dream, and televisions are never turned on.

All of the cinematic amenities prove interesting. Tim Orr’s generous North Carolina cinematography makes sure of it. Then the narrative happens.

World Made Straight is a meandering film, pulled from Ron Rash’s novel and tossed onto the screen as timidly as the weakest adaptations often are. Often the feature feels scared to move or lose any piece of intertwined drama; the result is overlong and eye rollingly contrived.

All of the story mix-ins concerning family bloodlines become repetitive.

Here is a movie about breaking the cycle – cycles of violence, drugs, and fossilized social standards. Travis is turning away from an abusive home, earning a GED, escaping lousy friends, and forming a grounded relationship. His growth is anemic. World Made Straight begins with Travis helping a ragged elderly man steal food before being fired for his actions. Travis is already a decent kid, merely misguided. Travis’ progress is almost insignificant.

Much is made of past relation, albeit it with dissatisfying consequence. All of the story mix-ins concerning family bloodlines become repetitive. It takes ages for the film to solve what should be obvious. This leaves World Made Straight open for Steve Earle who whips up a dazzling performance with unflinching eyes and total authority as the piece’s enthralling villain.

The rest is of minimal purpose. Some make it out, some lose to their fate. Either way, the build up of character and their resulting in-fight is nominal. What should be World Made Straight’s centerpiece – that of Travis’s bond to Wyle’s English teacher, Leonard – is swallowed by Earle’s convincing work and that character’s immoral process. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

They steal this movie @ 1:32:48

On home video, World Made Straight shares a look with the premise – old fashioned with anamorphic effects and venerable cinematography. There are few close-ups. Most of the movie is captured at range.

Shots are cold, dry. Color is sapped for the sake of minimal earth tones. Gray overcast lights much of the film. Few bright primaries are allowed.

All of this impacts contrast and black levels, the latter in particular rough while lacking in density when most needed. Despite the gray appearance, encode work by Millennium seems to hold. There is no noise or artifacts visible in shadows. However, it’s not quite competent enough to handle complex aerials of the town. From the sky, trees look murky and the water oily.

This is hardly an issue of resolution. Fidelity is often spotted on faces or locations. One muddy area near a lake, relevant to past and present, is well rendered. Each strip of grass is notable. Overall clarity from digital work is appreciable too. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Budget restraint shows in the audio mix, mostly held to the front channels with rear speakers mostly left to their own for ambiance. Gunshots and such barely reach any further than the stereos. While a flowing river may add to the daytime sonic scenery or crickets at night, World Made Straight is not often looking for splashiness.

Dialog is precise and well mixed though. A handful of scenes with heavier action won’t overwhelm the center. During a county fair, the loudness of attractions is not enough to overcome the needed lines. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]

No extras are included unless DVD quality trailers are to your liking. [xrr rating=0/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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