Visitor,The (2008)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Richard Jenkins, Haaz Slieman, Danai Gurira
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Deleted Secenes

Richard Jenkins is one of those faces you will recognize instantly that you won't be able to place immediately. He is one of those character actors that blended seamlessly so well you just could never quite recognize him, although nit was on the tip of your tongue. Like Philip Seymore Hoffman, Richard Jenkins appears to be ready to come out of the closet of obscure but excellent character actors and takes on a leading man role that has earned him some very favorable reviews in this powerful drama called "The Visitor", which combines an emotionally complex and somewhat politically/racially charged dilemma as its central storyline, and yet it is the type of film which forces you to look at every angle of a story before you make your final judgment. Like other great movies before it, it really forces you to confront a very sensitive issue, and makes the issue so accessible that you come away somewhat more enlightened despite which side of the political fence you lean towards when it comes to immigration.

Written and directed by Tom McCarthy (who also helmed "The Station Agent"),"The Visitor" concerns a well off widower named Walter who after his wife's passing has become a lonely and disillusioned shadow of himself. He is obviously searching for something to help him believe in life again and when he is forced to present a paper in Manhattan (he is a teacher), he at first hesitates, but it is in his acceptance that his life is changed forever.

He has owned an apartment building in Manhattan for twenty five years, but hardly ever visits it, and when he finally opens the door he discovers a couple has been staying there for a couple of months. Haaz Sleiman plays Tarek Khaleil a Middle Eastern illegal immigrant who has been squatting at the upscale apartment along with his African girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) without permission of Walter, who is as scared and shocked to discover them as they are to be found by him. At first, they apologize and they decide to leave, but Walter, feeling guilty especially after the respectful way they treat him, decides to let them stay for awhile longer until they can find a place of their own.

Their lives become joined together and Walter takes great joy in going with them to watch Tarek play his African drum with his band at a local NYC club. Walter soon becomes transfixed with the African drum and it soon becomes a bond that brings the unlikely two men together as friends, even if it at first makes his girlfriend somewhat uncomfortable.

After Tarek gives Walter some drum lessons he takes him to a drum circle and it is a life reaffirming moment for Walter, but on the way back Tarek gets arrested on the subway and is held at a deportation center. Walter hires an immigration attorney and Tarek's mother even shows up after a few weeks have gone by. They develop a relationship, and for the first time Walter feels as if he has not only a cause, but a reason to live as they fight desperately an uphill battle to release Tarek from the center where conditions are reportedly awful.

The film features captivating performances from everyone and is an eye opening and revealing portrait of just what our world has come to. It is not only a valuable learning experience but an exercise in racial tolerance and at times it can be an emotionally exhilarating experience. And Richard Jenkins gives the performance of his career; I look forward to seeing him in other films. "The Visitor" is a film that is easy to recommend to everyone. And Haaz Sleiman's performance is charming and charismatic, which makes his capture all that much more devastating, you really sense the loss of this character, and the emotional spiral of all the lives he touched resonates throughout the film. This is a very well made film that gets you so caught up in the people you forget you are even watching a movie.Powerful, but not overly preachy either, no matter what side of the fence you are with politics or immigration issues you will be moved by this small and intricate film.

As for the transfer, "The Visitor" arrives on Blu-ray with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio that is clean and crisp but subdued, although it certainly doesn't have any flaws to point out, the color spectrum and directing style is decidedly somewhat dark to convey the moods of the main cast. Wer do however get some very lively scenes of New York City, which illistrates in great detail that the city is made up of such a different and colorful blend of people, all of them captured in very sharp detail. Still,despite its somewhat bleak and subdued color tones and themes the film looks fine and there is nothing to complain about since the flesh tones and background are sufficiently sharp and noticeable.Obviously this isn't a disc you will be putting in to impress friends or anything, but it looks great.

As for the sound, we have a PCM 5.1 track that really delivers, especially during the drumming and musical sections. It offers plenty of surround sound in the subway and the sounds of the city resonate with an ambience that is clearly above average in range.

The special features are fairly short but get right to the point, this is a film that pretty much spaeaks for itself and I didn't expect too much more. None of the featres are in high definition.

First up is an 'Audio Commentary' that is subdued but also quite interesting. It features Tom McCarthy and Riuchard Jenkins and their views on the characters and themes are very intelligent. I especially enjoyed hearing about some of the fascinating new actors in the film and why they were picked.

'An Inside Look At The Visitor' only runs about five minutes but gives us a very complete breakdown on what nit took to create this subtle and poignant film through interviews with the mostly new cast and insights from the director.

'Playing The Djembe' explores the specific African drum portrayed in the film and is a very insightful look at a fascinating instrument and the culture that has built around it. Fascinating and brief, clocking in at only about eight minutes.

"Deleted Scenes' that run about five minutes altogether, they also feature optional commentary. Also on board is a 'Theatrical Trailer'.

"The Visitor" is a profound and sometimes disturbing look at not only the culture we live in but the culture we are becoming, it is the rare film that is at once a warning but it also has much hope lying beneath the surface. In the sound department this film really stands out on Blu-ray and it also looks fine, the special features are brief but with little filler, they really add to the overall feel of the film. "The Visitor" is definitely worth a rental and if you are a fan of dramas it certainly belongs in your collection of Blu-rays.