Bird’s the Word

Birdy unwinds its story primarily in flashbacks, looking back on Birdy (Matthew Modine) and Al’s (Nicholas Cage) friendship prior to being drafted into the Vietnam war. It’s critical to establish the view of baby boomer kids living wildly and freely, taking odd jobs, and generally being a neighborhood nuisance. Tearing that life away causes a catastrophic loss of innocence, dramatically altering American culture.

Birdy ends on an upbeat note, worthy of a genuine smile

The tragedy is Birdy, whose odd, potentially unstable mental condition, in any logical sense, should exclude him service. His name is direct, a pigeon-raising avian lover obsessed with flying. He sleeps with his birds, sometimes in their cage, and feels nothing for women or socialization. An outcast, an oddball, but a gentle one who only stands up for right when absolutely necessary.

Al is called to combat first. Birdy doesn’t have a scene where Birdy joins the corp, only one where he watches his closest (even only) friend walk the street in uniform toward deployment. The insinuation is clear: Birdy joined because losing a companion is too painful.

Their relationship feels authentic. That’s everything to Birdy’s drama. Al goes along with zany fantasies about flight, Birdy tolerates Al’s flirtatiousness. Jumping between timelines, Al visits Birdy in an asylum, where wartime trauma, physical and emotional, impacts them both. Those scenes cement the two as a pair, Al refusing to leave as Birdy sits awkwardly, mute and seemingly comatose, staring at a window. Al doesn’t betray his friend, and never tells superiors about Birdy’s isolated mindset; Al believes their connection alone will bring his friend back, a powerful statement that lets Al overcome an abusive father and shed any pretense of falling into a toxic lifestyle.

At two hours, the back-and-forth journey too often repeats itself, falling into repetitious narrative, if not without purpose. As Al’s frustration grows with Birdy’s inability to function, so to does an audience’s patience, waiting for a breakthrough. It does come, but late. Birdy ends on an upbeat note, worthy of a genuine smile and unforgettable tonal change that suggests all will turn out okay. Al and Birdy helped one another recover, even if one side didn’t realize as much. In the final moment, Birdy shows not all of the purity in their lives was sacrificed. it’s too simple, too compact for such a complex scenario, if satisfying.

Birdy Blu-ray screen shot


On a shared disc alongside Casualties of War, the persistent issue facing Birdy is compression. Artifacting gunks up the imagery, creating blocking on the regular and eroding detail. While not the most recent, greatest, or sharpest master, what’s here is HD worthy. Preserved grain allows the film stock to poke through, at least where compression isn’t hampering things.

The first major night sequence introduces thick black crush, lessening depth and robbing shadows of their fidelity. It’s messy. By comparison, contrast is more reserved, dulled and listless. There’s aging revealed in this regard.

Bland color saturation comes with a brown overcast, limiting primaries. Few hues stand out, and even flesh tones dull. A few medals hanging on uniforms represent the brightest elements.


No standout qualities warrant mention from this DTS-HD stereo track; it’s perfectly commendable in fidelity, delivering a small sonic space with passable dynamics. Tiny distortion in the dialog isn’t a complete loss (reserved for more echo-y environments). No hiccups to report either, the mix cleared of any hiss or pop.



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.

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Birdy shows the significant changes Vietnam had on baby boomer kids, losing their easy-going lives, identity, and friendships after coming back home.

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