Narrative films are either a hit or miss and need to really be something special in order for them to be entertaining. Look at A Christmas Story, Sleepers, and the entire series of The Wonder Years and you’ll see that those were three narratives that had the “it” factor that made them good. If the production is missing that factor then the narration is going to become old quick and get really annoying. Even more bothersome is having a crappy voice do the narrative work and you begin to resent what you’re watching even more. So what are some easy answers to make sure you have a good narrative film? Make the plot a murder mystery set in the deep south and get one of the greatest voices of all time to do the narration…Tommy Lee Jones.
Down in New Iberia, Louisiana is lieutenant detective Dave Robicheaux (Jones), who is also a self-confessed alcoholic and runs a bait shop in the small fishing town. New Iberia and its residents are all in a happy uproar thanks to a big-time feature film being shot right there in the city. Robicheaux doesn’t have much to do in town and doesn’t really care either so when he pulls over big time actors Elrod Sykes (Peter Sarsgaard) and Kelly Drummond, it doesn’t really matter much to him. That is until Sykes let’s Robicheaux in on a little secret that anyone would want to be a part of: the location of a dead body.
Robicheaux is led to the bones of a black prison escapee he saw shot to death years ago and wonders why these bones are now coming back to haunt him. As the small-town cop begins trying to find out information on why this body has appeared before his eyes again and believes to have a few suspects under investigation already. One of them is a local mobster by the name of “Baby Feet” Balboni whose name always seems to pop up when something goes wrong even though he has a keen way of getting out of trouble often. Soon Robicheaux begins to uncover a lot more then the clues that are coming along with not only this old body, but the murder of a prostitute as well. What exactly is going on down in the bayou and can the old Confederate soldiers appearing in Robicheaux’s eyes only help him find the answers?
In The Electric Mist is one of those films that was headed for theatres and somehow ended up going straight to DVD and not getting the treatment it should have. Not only is the film a lot better then you’d ever expect it to be, but it also is not short on star talent with Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarrsgard, Mary Steenburgen, and many more. I kept sitting through this film and just couldn’t even begin to imagine how it was not given a wide release in theatres. The story is absolutely excellent and it is not only shown to us but told to us by Jones’ brilliant narrative that keeps the story flowing and explainable. Perhaps there is a bit much going on throughout the film’s duration and it could have really benefited from another twenty or so minutes in length, but the narration really keeps your head focused and never lets you get confused.
Upon doing my research, I’ve come to find out that In the Electric Mist is actually based on the James Lee Burke novel entitled In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead. After watching the film, you’ll totally understand its full title, but I don’t quite get while they shortened it. Hell, it’s not like we haven’t seen longer titles before. Burke has many novels in which Robicheaux is the main character and one or two of his titles have been made into feature films before, but this is my first exposure to him whatsoever and I enjoyed it. Perhaps it helps a little that the setting is in my home state, but you have to admit that it brings in great shrouds of mystery and add a lot of spookiness to the story making it that much more intense. The same can be said for the comeback ’80s slasher film Hatchet which not only brings about the ambiance of the city of New Orleans but the fear brought about by the surrounding swamps.
The film is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it comes through very nicely. Every aspect of the Louisiana swamps is captured in their true and vivid colors without any issues.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and also extraordinarily well done. All dialogue can be heard well with nice sound effects from the outdoors echoing around the room. One of my favorite composers in Marco Beltrami supplies a beautiful score that circles through every speaker making the viewing experience even better.
A Theatrical Trailer. That’s it.
I really want you to rush right out and buy this DVD immediately simply because the film itself is excellent and well worth watching for anyone that loves mysteries, thrillers, drama, and Tommy Lee Jones. Let’s face it, you have to like him because he is in every single scene of the film since it’s sort of told from his perspective with the narration and all that. As for the special features (or lack thereof) the trailer is always a welcome addition to any DVD, but a commentary track or even a cheap-o “making of” featurette would have been more than appreciated, but we don’t even get previews for other releases which is just odd as hell. In the Electric Mist is a film that needs to be seen and be appreciated.
Image Entertainment presents In The Electric Mist. Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier. Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Saarsgard, Mary Steenburgen. Written by: James Lee Burke, Jerzy Kromolowski, & Mary-Olson Kromolowski. Running time: 102 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: March 3, 2009. Available at Amazon.com