The Film (3.5/5)
Gummi and Kiddi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson, and Theodor Juliusson) are two sheep farmers in a remote farming town in Iceland. The two brothers haven’t spoken to each other in 40 years and spend most of their time avoiding one another. After the town’s annual sheep contest, Gummi loses second place to Kiddi. While leaving the town dinner celebration, Gummi goes to inspect Kiddi’s prize winning ram. To his surprise the ram seems to be suffering from scrapie. Gummi informs the rest of the town as everyone has to comp and slaughter their flocks. But in these tough times, the two brothers come together because of some hidden sheep.
RAMS has been getting acclaim since its release in 2015. But let me warn you ahead and say this is not a comedy in any way shape or form, like some of the press say. Going in with that mind set will really drive the film down. Now the film itself is perfectly fine. The best way to describe RAMS is that it is an awards movie. Everything about it screams Academy Awards, from its bleak view of life, family drama, and of course it’s emotionally driven soundtrack, that seems to force certain emotions on you. And by the half way point you may keep checking the display button on your remote.
The biggest thing holding back RAMS from greatest is its basic plot and structure. Huge chucks of the run time are spent on filler such as walking in the fields set to the generic soundtrack. It feels like the family plot was thrown in as an afterthought. Other plot points like the source of the scrapie or the hidden sheep are barely touched upon. There’s so much wasted potential because the movie just moves on a snail’s pace from generic drama moment to moment.
RAMS does have some brilliant moments hidden away. One ironic scene involves Gummi using a work truck to drop-off Kiddi to a hospital to avoid frostbite. The waking out to gun fire scene is suspenseful and emotionally tragic. And the climactic snow storm is very riveting. As a whole the film’s strongest asset is its cinematography by Sturla Brandth Grovlen. The long shots of the town and the countryside are poetic and rich with little details. The use of close-ups and rack focus show a complete mastery of the camera. Each new landscape could be a new painting, that’s how good the photography is.
On the acting front, both leads are compelling when the movie doesn’t drag its feet. Sigurdur Sigurjonsson gets most of the screen time as Gummi. His eyes and jerky quick movements make him fascinating to watch. Theodor Juliusson is vicious, jealous, and a broken figure as Kiddi. Once his sheep are gone, the layers start to crack for him. By the end their team is the heart of the film, and the ending shot is both heartwarming and satisfying.
RAMS is picturesque movie filled with dread and forgiveness. But unfocused plot and filler scenes to show the inner pain of our characters becomes tiring quick.
This Cohen Blu-ray shows off the beauty of the movie’s sound design and cinematography. The movie is presented with a 5.1 Icelandic DTS-HD Master Audio track. There’s no noticeable hiss or sudden drops in sound levels. The track shows off the wonderful mix of folly sound effects. It really sucks you into the movie.
As for Picture, the movie has a 1080p HD transfer. The picture quality is excellent with well-balanced contrast. Some scenes really show off the warm browns and yellows. The most visually striking are all the snow blanket winter scenes. The blacks are well defined too. There’s zero grain issues or digital noise.
Extras are slim. We get an interview with director Grimur Hakonarson, which is well filmed. There’s also Hakonarson’s short film “Wrestling” which runs 22 minutes and 23 seconds and the theatrical trailer for RAMS. Closing out the package we get our usual insert booklet with cast list and production photos.
RAMS is ultimately an uneven movie with its heart in the right place. The Cohen Blu-ray gives this movie an attractive release with an outstanding transfer. Rental First just to be safe.