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MOVIE REVIEW: “The Timber” is a Western that Looks Better than it Sounds

Brothers Snow Gunpoint

The moment you wish you’d have brought along that extra pair of thermal underwear.

 

Westerns are the Orcas of the movie world. Exciting, beautifully slow-moving (most of the time), and also on the verge of extinction. However, unlike Killer Whales, the demise of the Western genre has more to do with our cultural evolution as a society, and less to do with the pouching of Hollywood executives who green light the media that lights up our movie houses and TV screens. Although a case could be made the quality of our entertainment would improve if the latter were to happen. And no, I’m not condoning the pouching of Hollywood studio executives; it’s called a joke people. (As funny or unfunny as it may be.)

Luckily, there are still just enough creative types who are fans of the film category to bring the masses stories from the more rustic era of time. The latest of those rare releases is The Timber, directed by Anthony O’Brien and produced by ANA Media. It’s an independent flick that spent little time in theaters and is making its way to DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, October 6th.

 

3D-Ocards-TheTimber

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray starting October 6th.

 

The premise of the film is a simple one, although it takes half the movie’s runtime to comprehend what exactly is taking place and why. The Timber follows the tale of two brothers, Wyatt (James Ransone) and Samuel (Josh Peck), as they make their way through the brutal Yukon winter in an attempt to bring back a notorious fugitive (aka, their dad). There is another subplot that intertwines with the main story, but I will keep this spoiler free for those interested in taking in a viewing.

 


Never has a Western made me want to hit the bunny hill slopes for some extreme skiing.

 

Being the positive optimistic Outlaw that I am, I’m going to start with the pluses, despite being able to count them on only one hand… of a three-toed sloth.

 

THE GOOD:

  • Top Notch Cinematography

The frozen forest backdrops and white snow-capped mountainous vistas used throughout are nothing short of breathtaking. I found it quite interesting Romania was the filming location for the mesmerizing outdoor scenes. Most Westerns have a tendency of filming in locales that are dry and barren desert wastelands, so it was refreshing to see this type of movie set in an entirely different weather element. If anything, you will definitely feel more appreciative of your indoor heating system.

 

Wyatt with Russian

“No, that’s a gun in your back and I’m not happy to see you.”

 

  • Intriguing Concept

The Timber is a slow burner with an even slower start out of the gate, but if you are the owner of patience (not patients), the story eventually sucks you in. Regardless of the misgivings I had about the rest of the flick, there was enough buildup – for me anyway – to stick around to see how the story eventually played out. As infrequent as they happened to be, there were also a few true moments of tension that had me wondering what would happen next.

Unfortunately, outside of the cool cowboy hats, that’s pretty much where the pros end and the cons begin. Well, the cons actually started from the very beginning, but you get the gist, right?

 

THE BAD:

  • Hearing Aides & Translator Required

I viewed The Timber on a massive 60” LCD that envelops two walls and through a Dolby 5 speaker surround sound system that would draw multiple noise complaints from a hearing-impaired community of those that have been legally deaf since birth. It’s why I found it incredibly frustrating that close to 80% of the dialogue was indistinguishable from gibberish.

If you’re going to take on this film, I recommend either turning on the closed captions or taking a course in Pig-Latin. Sadly, much of the dialogue was hard to understand at any volume, and for someone like me who can hear the word Ghostbusters whispered from over a football field away, it was a major problem. It wasn’t just me either, as the Outlaw parents and grandma – with whom I watched the DVD – deciphered less than I did.

 

Dad Son

“Dad, you can’t hear me because you’re wearing a racoon on your head.”

 

  • So That Just Happened, Maybe

The storytelling trope of jumping back and forth on a given timeline is nothing new. Done correctly, it can add an element of discovery or reinforcement to the assumptions made by the audience as the story itself unfolds. Heavy emphasis on ‘done correctly.” The Timber attempts to incorporate flashback scenes using the same apparatus, but executes it in a way that gives the viewer no hint whatsoever as to when specific scenes took place. In other words, the transitions made are almost too seamlessly integrated and flow together as if no timeline jumping ever occurred. It caused major chaos in the Outlaw household as questions arose on why one of the brothers decided to camp outside in the harsh elements when he was in the comfort of a heated cabin just seconds ago.

Keeping on the theme of “Huh?”, there was another random subplot about some sort of cannibal roaming the snow covered outback. When the man-eating element was introduced, a rather large part of me was excited as I thought the film might take a sci-fi Walking Dead type turn. Instead, it ended up being a strange 5 minute interlude which did nothing to move the story forward in any meaningful way and seemed entirely out of place.

 

Wyatt with Gun

“The wiseguy that poured ketchup on my face and ruined my expensive fur coat is going down!”

 

THE UGLY:

  • Character Undevelopment

I’ve touched on it before, but characters make the movie (or TV show, or book, or puppet show, etc.) A solid story definitely helps give a body of work direction and purpose, but if you can’t connect with the players involved, then who really cares what fate they suffer in the end. It’s with utmost regret that I report everyone in this film could have bit the dust (minus the innocent baby) and I would have been none the sadder. In fact, it probably would have made for a better flick. Oddly enough, this negative is not a knock on the actors per say, but how they were written. Unfortunately, I know 8 year-olds that can create more interesting characters. Regrettably, the uninteresting protagonists were the film’s primary downfall.

 

  • Too Much Caffeine for the Cameramen

Of all the things that really burns my biscuits, it’s the overuse of the shaky cam in today’s cinema. I have no doubt that directors will argue with me until they’re blue in the face, it’s a stylistic choice which allows the viewer to feel as if they are experiencing what’s going on via a first person perspective. In my book, it’s a lazy way to film action sequences and cheap out on taking the time to choreograph stunts properly . If I wanted to incur a headache every time I viewed a film, I’d buy a paint shaker and stick my head in it while watching. The Timber only had a handful of action sequences, but most used this camera method which required injecting about 3 pounds of Aspirin directly into my blood stream.

 

Sad Wyatt

The look that says, “My agent is getting ice cubes for Christmas this year.”

 

Alas, I regret to report all the gorgeous scenery in Romania couldn’t save The Timber from its own below average devices. Unless you have the translation skills of a world-renown interpreter and are up for bright red bloodshed scattered across rolling hills of pure white snow, your time would be better spent elsewhere. One suggestion would be to figure out how to get Orcas to mate on a more frequent basis.

 

1 Spur

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