Blu-ray Review: ‘The Nativity Story’

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"The Nativity Story" debuts on HD format via a two-disc release housing its Blu-ray and DVD copies. This 2006 religious tale by Catherine Hardwicke dramatizes the period when Mary and Joseph face an arduous but incredible journey to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus Christ. The film stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Hiam Abbass, Alexander Siddig, Ciarán Hinds, and Shohreh Aghdashloo.

The simple narrative keeps up with its biblical source by telling three story arcs that converge in the origin of Christmas. The first features Mary as a teen whose faith is put to the test when she learns from Angel Gabriel that she is destined to miraculously conceive the Son of God. The second features King Herod's torturous reign and his proclamation of slaughtering all baby boys in his kingdom because of the fear that the prophecy of a king rising among them would come true. The third features the three wise men following the astrological signs that lead them to Bethlehem.

Visuals

With its great production values, this narrative adaptation of The Nativity clearly puts emphasis on the story's period and cultural details. Many scenes showcase a lush visual representation of ancient Middle East. A desaturated, almost monochromatic palette dominates the picture, except for some joyous scenes that add more bright and bold colors on screen. The intentionally dreary and bleak look prevalent in the film provides a richly textured portrayal of the poverty and hardship of its setting.

Whether in wide landscapes or intimate close-ups, shots deliver sharp, tactile, and filmic details. Some shimmering becomes apparent in shots of sand dunes and trees, but not to a detrimental degree. Amidst the heavy manipulation of color and contrast, the images remain stable with no instances of serious banding, crushing, and other annoying compression anomalies.

Audio

The package hosts a pretty immersive five-channel lossless track, along with an alternative stereo track in Spanish. For the most part, this front-heavy presentation has no much bells and whistles. Its surround capability is not used constantly, but in key sequences, its presence creates a very dynamic listening experience for the audience. The elegant musical score renders outstanding fidelity. Dialogue is generally clear and intelligible, although some whispered lines require a little more effort to be understood.

Supplements

Disc owners have a few supplements to check out in this release. These include the SD-formatted documentary "The Nativity Story: A Director's Journey" and the HD-formatted traditional trailer and teaser trailer. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.

Final Thoughts

"The Nativity Story" ends up as a mixed bag. What elevates this straightforward retelling is its more human take on the familiar biblical account. It fills the gaps in those small, human moments that most adaptations of the tale lack. What makes it more interesting is how its characters act like regular people under typical circumstances. This makes the story more relatable to the general public.

The film's personal and intimate approach, along with its picturesque visuals, lays the groundwork for the presentation. However, a number of scenes still feel forcibly shoehorned into the narrative. It may be a serviceable affair from the surface, but the film is still unable to fully explore and genuinely fathom the emotional core of the characters' epic journey.

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