Michael Clayton Blu-ray Review
PictureMichael Clayton comes to Blu-ray with near-perfect picture presentation. It looks simply tremendous, with a flawless 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original broad theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is fantastic throughout, whether it be the longer shots, the crowded streets or the close-ups of faces, hands and so forth. There is no apparent grain, no signs of edge enhancement or digital artefacting, the picture never suffering from anything that was not totally intended by the filmmakers. The colour palette is quite beautiful but seldom flashy, retaining a bluish hue in plenty of the sequences, and representing the colours chosen in a vibrant and realistic fashion, without ever becoming overpowering. Check out the burgundy of the seats in some of the restaurant scenes, or the deep mahogany walls, it all looks superb. Rounding off the video we get supreme blacks, allowing for some tremendous night scenes - and giving Clooney one of the best suit looks on film. I've heard mixed reviews over the presentation, and perhaps the style affects the judgement of some critics (it is a movie populated by shots that use the width of the frame to its ultimate potential), but for my money it is a classy, stylish but never overbearing video presentation.
SoundTo accompany the movie we get a decent but far from exceptional Dolby Digital 5.1 Plus track. Yes, you heard it right, it just gets a standard DD5.1 mix, and - despite the fact that this isn't boisterous Hollywood blockbuster material - one can't help feel a little disappointed that the studios did not bother splashing out for something a little more next generation. Still, the track certainly suffices, and whilst it may never directly contribute to any extra enjoyment you might find for the movie with its Home Cinema presentation, it does not detract from it either. The dialogue, from the whispered, elicit conversations to the shouting arguments, comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely coming from across the frontal array. The effects are relatively limited - other than the occasional explosion or door being smashed open - so the movie is all about keen observation of ambience, and creating a suitably moody atmosphere. Here it does offer some dynamic portrayal, and does create the right atmosphere for this kind of production. The score is also quite broody, silent at times, but building during the more tense sequences so as to pull you into the drama. There are brief moments of LFE action, but for the most part this is a quiet but ever-present affair, and whilst we can't help but wonder whether a better spec track would have improved your aural enjoyment, this still hits all the right spots.
ExtrasFirst up we get a full-length Audio Commentary by the Writer and Director Tony Gilroy, and his younger brother John Gilroy, the Editor on the movie. It's really Tony's baby, so he talks for the most part, discussing how he pitched it (a movie with a big lead role and where somebody dies!), wrote it and harangued George to get on-board. He has plenty of anecdotes on offer, noting some of the filming locations and techniques but never allowing his narration to dry up - constantly injecting it with interesting trivia and titbits. It's a decent, informative commentary with plenty of momentum, and anybody even slightly interested in the making of this production should definitely give this a listen.
We also get three Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by the brothers. The first scene is the only one which could have been left in, a nice little interesting exposition into Clayton's shadowy working world thanks to the girlfriend that we never really got to see in the final film (played by Jennifer Ehle, from the acclaimed UK TV production of Pride and Prejudice). I can see why it was cut, but fans will be quite happy to have it included here. The other two cuts are fairly redundant, we get an unnecessary extra bit of resolution for the first 'fix' that Clayton performs, as well as a pointless exchange between the two assassins.
It's worth noting that the disc itself is actually quite ascetic not only in terms of extras but also in menu presentation. I happen to think this has its benefits - there are no trailers or unnecessary padding that you would normally be forced to trawl through, and the menu keeps things down to basics and allows instant access rather than glossy, moving 'interactive' affairs - but some might find it a little Spartan.
VerdictMichael Clayton is one of the year's best movies, a modern-day classic in its keenly tempered pacing and plotting, and a resoundingly interesting character study and legal thriller all adeptly intertwined into one engrossing masterpiece. With some superb characters and some top talent on offer to bring them to life - not least a career-high George Clooney - it is a wonder that this did not win more awards. On Blu-ray its presentation is mostly solid but sporadically outstanding - excelling in the visual department, but remaining unexceptional on the aural front. And though the extras are a bit thin on the ground, what we do get is well worth checking out. If you're willing to give this movie a shot, I think few will be disappointed - for me it would have been a blind buy and I would have had no regrets. It's also a movie that most definitely grows on you, so don't be too quick to dismiss it if you find that it doesn't quite gel with you. Overall it comes highly recommended, as I've stated, it's one of the best movies that I have seen this year.
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