Cinelinx takes a look at the Blu-ray for the historical thriller Chappaquiddick!
In 1969, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) died in an accident on Chappaquiddick Island while riding in a car with then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke). The events of that night - and the questions that have been left unanswered - are dramatized in this film. Stars Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms, and Bruce Dern.
Directed by John Curran
The Chappaquiddick tragedy is perhaps the least-explored political scandal in modern U.S. history, an oversight which the film of the same name hopes to rectify.
Director John Curran (2010’s Stone) jumps right into the events with little buildup, assuming the audience knows about the events and the Kennedy family. For millennials who may not realize how towering a presence the Kennedy family was in American politics, a little history prep before seeing the film might be in order.
That’s because appreciating the true tragedy - and even the irony - of watching Chappaquiddick requires knowing how the incident has been largely dismissed and forgotten in modern times, especially since the death of Ted Kennedy in 2009.
As you watch Ted (played by Jason Clarke in a fantastic performance) struggle to handle the public’s reaction to the tragedy, it also helps to know that, despite his best efforts, the scandal would be his personal albatross for the rest of his life, dooming any chance he had to progress his political career to the White House.
The script, by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, is surprisingly on-point in recounting the events with little artistic license. The only true speculation comes in the decision to show Kopechne (in a wonderfully understated performance by Kate Mara) surviving the crash and staying conscious while submerged, struggling to escape the car and find air well after Ted has escaped.
This is an important choice by the writers, as it puts the cascade of Kennedy’s frustrating actions after the crash (he waited hours to contact the police) in a truly callous light. Indeed, the events of Chappaquiddick have never been presented to the pubic in this way before, and it does not put Ted in a flattering light. Nor should it.
It should be noted that the film chooses to ignore some of the more salacious speculation, including that Kennedy and Kopechne were romantically involved and the “party” at the island cottage was not as innocent as Ted and those who were there wanted it to appear.
There is some attempt to humanize Ted, especially as he battles his father Joseph (played by an almost unrecognizable Bruce Dern), who is more concerned about the Kennedy name than a dead girl. It’s an added level of complexity to not only Ted Kennedy’s image, but the Kennedy family as a whole.
The gravity of the true events depicted in the film are handled expertly by Curran, who never over-dramatizes the story. The just-the-facts approach makes Chappaquiddick not only a better film, but an important and necessary depiction of the tragedy.
The performances, as I referred to earlier, are fantastic. The ensemble cast - even the unconventional choices of Jim Gaffigan and Ed Helms - is spot on, and elevate the film as a whole, providing the depth and candor the story requires.
As a history buff, I found Chappaquiddick to be a riveting tale with unparalleled performances. At times, it’s a slow burn, and the pacing plods a bit more than it should, but by the final frame, the momentum builds to a singular decision that forever marks the Kennedy legacy. Chappaquiddick will certainly make you rethink the history you only thought you knew.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The Chappaquiddick Blu-ray sports a sharp video transfer with good detail. There appears to be some color correction to give it a bit of a vintage look, with warmer golds and some muted colors, to resemble a vintage photograph. The overall quality of the image, however, is first-rate.
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack won’t test the limits of your sound system - it’s not that kind of film - but the dialogue is crisp and prominent in the center channels, as it should be.
Surprisingly, the extras on the disc are thin - only a couple of featurettes. Both do provide some nice background into the history of the controversy and how it was translated to film.
“A Reckoning: Revisiting Chappaquiddick” featurette. The challenges of recreating a historically accurate film are explored, as well as the events of the tragedy itself. Running Time: 25:19
“Bridge to the Past: Editing the Film” featurette. Editor Keith Fraase discusses the film, the attention the producers put to the detail and historical aspects, and the specific techniques he used to tell the story. Running Time: 12:45
Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, compatible with iTunes and the Ultraviolet movie service, is included.
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Running Time: 106 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Spanish
Special Features: “A Reckoning: Revisiting Chappaquiddick” featurette, “Bridge to the Past: Editing the Film” featurette, Digital Copy.