The Darjeeling Limited – DVD Review

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I won’t lie to you, I’ve spent the past twenty-minutes trying to figure out how to start an opening paragraph for my review of Wes Anderson’s latest cinematic outing. Not because I found myself at a loss for words, but because the director has become so polarizing over the past few years that it’s hard to find a starting point. So instead of continuing my procrastination, I’ve decided to simply start talking about what makes the director so interesting to me. While many would look to Bottle Rocket or Rushmore as their favorite Anderson films, there is something about The Royal Tenenbaums that has stuck with me ever since my first viewing of the film. To a point where I find myself watching it several times a year just to marvel at its mesmerizing artistry.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, on the other hand, caused quite a large number of viewers to turn a cold shoulder on his work. Not for this reviewer, but many looked at it as all style with very little substance. Flashy and over-polished. So with The Darjeeling Limited, you can see why it’s hard to talk about why I loved the film so much when someone could easily hate it for the exact same reasons it spoke to me.

Following three brothers on a spiritual journey through India, Darjeeling Limited continues the parent and child dilemma found in many of Anderson’s previous features. Roughly a year after their fathers sudden death, Francis, Peter and Jack find themselves aboard a train trying to repair their broken down relationship and inability to let go of the day their father died. Francis, the older brother, has coerced them into joining him on a train ride to an as of yet undisclosed destination.

One of the most entertaining aspects of the feature is that of the constant politics and humor that derives from brotherhood. Three brothers with relationship issues alone in a confined space for an indeterminate amount of time, the endless amount of material one could cull from that premise alone should entice people into wanting to see this movie. And it really does make the most with that idea, given the context of the story. Like how two of the brothers are always seen talking behind the others back while he’s out of ear shot. Or things like being unwillingly brought into an argument, trying to find the best time to side-step your way out of the conversation. Even showing the little things, like taking something that isn’t yours without asking first. Of course, the characters emotions and inability to let go of all their emotional baggage is front and center in the story.

While his visual flairs are still quite prevalent during viewings, it’s only becoming more of a trademark than impairment for Wes. In many ways, his whip-pan style of camera movement makes editing feels a bit warmer, not so uncomfortable or cold like so many other film. It’s exactly what is called for in this type of tiny, intimate story of sibling conflict and pent up emotions. For those who find this particular brand of his off putting, be comforted in knowing that it reels in the excessive use that started to seep into his more recent efforts. Where he once again focuses on telling the story first and foremost. His unconventional style makes what could have been a cramped and claustrophobic setting and turns it into a vibrant and lively environment for our three leads to continue on their journey of spiritual realization.

This movie only furthers the proof of director Wes Anderson being completely confident in his material, allowing images to tell the story instead of packing the film with dialogue. The film has a splendid pace that allows the story to breath while never allowing the plot to play out at a snails pace. Speaking of telling the story, it’s so refreshing to see a film by a major writer/director clock in at just over ninety-minutes in length (with credits). It simply takes everything and boils it all down to the bare essentials of the plot. Making this film come highly recommended.

The screener provided to me for review purposes contains the same compression artifacts and watermarking that mar all review copies from the fine folks over at Fox. So this section certainly isn’t going to be helpful to those of you wondering how the disc will look and sound. Having said that, the films cinematography is stunning and the music selections are equally seductive, and I’m sure the final retail version will showcase both of them fittingly.

The twelve-minute short film Hotel Chevalier has been included on the DVD. But it shouldn’t really be viewed as a bonus feature given how Anderson himself considers it an important part of the film, even labeling it Part 1 of The Darjeeling Limited. The short film centers around Jack, before he goes on the trip with his two brothers. It’s an enjoyable short that stands on its own as a wonderful thing to watch all by itself. The only other thing on the DVD is The Darjeeling Limited Walking Tour, which is a roughly twenty minute making of featurette that doesn’t have much of a structure to it. Making the disc feel like a bit of a disappointment given the quality extras found on Anderson’s other DVDs. A Theatrical Trailer for the featured movie is also included here.

Darjeeling has wonderful characters that are a joy to follow on their journey, but a few too many gaps in both the story and their motives keep the film from being something truly more. Those who felt a bit unsatisfied with The Life Aquatic, this film should remind you what Anderson can do when he keeps his focus on the story and characters. While the disc is fine and serviceable for the feature, one can only hope that Fox Searchlight will allow Criterion to make an even more satisfying two disc release for the film.


Fox Searchlight presents The Darjeeling Limited. Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman. Written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman. Running time: 91 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: February 26, 2008. Available at