Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover and the main menu for the Soloist are based on the same shot – with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. in character and in close proximity. Jamie Foxx, as Nathaniel Ayers is playing the Cello, and Robert Downey Jr., as Steve Lopez is watching Ayers intently. It is a nice cover, with a nice close up of the two powerful actors. The menu is static, but it is not bad overall.
- An Unlikely Friendship The Making Of The Soloist – In this 20 minute extra, which is basically a behind the scenes feature, we get a very short and terse glimpse into the movie making process. The best part of this extra is that we get to see the real Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers, who start off the feature and kind of lay some groundwork, to which the actors and director add to the story about how this movie developed.
- Deleted Scenes – There are about 10 minutes of deleted scenes here, and some are very interesting. Some of the most difficult scenes to watch in the movie are when Nathaniel is shown plunging into the depths of his mental condition, and there are a few deleted scenes that further illustrate this fall.
- Commentary By Director Joe Wright – Director Joe Wright is very entertaining in this single person commentary. I am always a bit leery of just one commentator, as they can tend to get slow and boring, but Wright is kind of scatter-brained and all over the place with this very informative, and well done commentary. Of course I would have love Downey Jr, and Foxx to participate, but this was well done.
- Kindness, Courtesy, and Respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez – In this wonderful, 4 minute extra, we get to see the actual people who the story is based upon. Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers sit down to discuss their relationship, and the admiration that both have come to feel for one another. This is a truly powerful segment, and well worth a watch.
- And More – There is also a 10 minute extra that focuses on homelessness in Low Angeles, where 90,000 people walk the streets without a place to call home, and a 2 minute short animated piece focusing on the trials and tribulations of being homeless. There is also a 4 minute feature on the Julliard school, which gives a glimpse into the kind of training and regimen that Nathaniel Ayers would have experienced at such a prestigious music school.
The Movie: 8/10
The Soloist is a movie based on the real life relationship that developed between Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez, and a down and out Nathaniel Ayers. Ayers,who at one point in his life was a brilliant Cello player who was gripped by mental illness, and eventually is forced to drop out of the Julliard Music School. Ayer’s illness ends up forcing him to live in the streets of Los Angeles, along with thousands of other unfortunate people.
Steve Lopez (played by Robert Downey Jr.) is a struggling writer who stumbles upon Ayers (Jamie Foxx) near the Los Angeles Times building. While outside on a break, Lopez hears music coming from nearby, and finds the obviously homeless Ayers, playing a violin with only two strings, but playing beautifully. A conversation between the two tailspins into a column for Lopez, which leads to more and more involvement between the two, which leads to an unlikely friendship.
The Soloist offers a very stark view of homelessness in Los Angeles. The fear, squalor, and sheer unimaginable existence is presented in a very bleak manner. There is no sugar coating the monotonous existence of Ayers’ life, and while Ayers is obviously a remarkable human being, his illness is also up front and center. Jamie Foxx does a great job of showing the levels of the illness through his actions and dialogue, and it plays well with Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Lopez, who is as out of touch as Ayers in pars of the movie. Foxx effortlessly allows us to believe that the illness has eaten away at his character, by using stream of though dialogue, and giving himself to the roll. As mentioned in the extras, it can be tricky to pull of “crazy” on film without going too far, but I though Jamie Foxx did a wonderful job, and after seeing the real Nathaniel Ayers in the extras, Foxx caught some of this speaking cadence and actions wonderfully.
The combination of the two actors makes for a really interesting movie. The story itself is a solid one, and I was impressed by the ending of the movie, which is not your normal Hollywood, everything gets solved at the end type of scenario. Director Joe Wright does a great job at bringing a good story to the screen, utilizing some amazing acting. He also does a good job of showing the dangers and real side of homelessness, without sugar coating it or beating us over the head with the weight of the problem. It is presented, just like the movie itself, as is, with warts and all, while telling a touching story that seems to shine through the dirt. The Soloist was a great, touching movie, and well worth a viewing.
Audio & Video: 10/10
The audio and video are truly beautiful on this Blu-ray release. This would not be the type of movie that I would necessarily think would shine in either department (well I expected the audio to be good, with the main focus being classical music). The audio is a beautifully mixed, extremely sharp, and uses the rear speakers flawlessly to create rich musical fields, as well as a very immersive experience when Nathaniel hears voices in his head. The loss-less 5.1 Dolby True HD is amazing.
The video is also just brilliant. The details throughout the movie are sharp, and the cinematography is harsh and real and really does a great job of immersing you into the film. Be it a dirty street scene, a messy office, or even when Nathaniel “sees” the music turn in to vivid colors, the video is excellent. The AVC-encoded 2.39:1 transfer is just sharp and stark and full of reality. I was very, very impressed.
The Soloist is a great movie, with truly magnificent performances delivered by Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. The movie itself is based on a true story, which makes it even more compelling, and the production is excellent. This is not the type of movie that I will watch over and over again, but it is a tremendously fulfilling movie, and well worth a watch.
Overall Score 8/10