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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Michael Clayton


Starring: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack
Pathé Distribution
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 01 February 2010

Michael Clayton is a fixer, a lawyer who goes in and sorts out messy problems. Up to his eyes in debt, he is sent to look after a fellow lawyer, who has inexplicably decided to run naked through his own deposition. What Michael finds is a friend, distressed, having worked off a case about a large fertiliser manufacturer. As he delves deeper into the case Michael becomes a target himself...

Michael Clayton (2007 - 1 hr, 59 min, 32 sec) is a thriller written and directed by first time director Tony Gilroy, the film won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Tilda Swinton. It also won twelve more awards and was nominated for a further, staggering, fifty-one. Although this was Gilroy's first time in the director’s chair he is no stranger to film having written the screenplay for the first three Bourne movies, amongst others.

The film opens with Michael stopping to look at some horses. After he gets out of the car it explodes. The film then switches back four days to see how these events came about. It is difficult to say that the character of Michael (George Clooney) is honourable or even particularly likeable, indeed Michael’s speech at the end of the movie gives the impression that not even Michael thinks this of himself, especially when he sells his friend down the river for the money he has lost in a failed restaurant, but then again Michael is anything but self deluded. The film create a contemplative tone which perfectly matched the mood of the central character, Michael is always looking for an angle and a way out.

Having been sent to take control of Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) he finds his friend in a somewhat manic state having found out something to do with the case Edens is working on. After he drops out of sight Michael pursues him, but does little to help his friend before he is killed. Wilkinson is a constantly good actor and puts in another good performance as the tortured Edens. The best performance is undoubtedly given by Tilda Swinton who plays another fixer, Karen Crowder, whose methods are even more extreme than Michael's.

Clooney seems to have been on a one man mission to create and star in adult themed movies, not an easy task in an industry awash with kiddie flicks. There have been notable successes, Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), and even some flawed but worthwhile near misses Solaris (2002). This film falls into the category of successful adult drama. It’s not an easy film to watch and full concentration is required, there is little action, but lots of interaction and talking, the cinematography and soundtrack create a constant tone of brooding danger.

As a Blu-ray the disc has some good and not so good qualities. The picture is a strong transfer, displaying the muted colour palette well, though it lacked the pin sharp definition of some other transfers. The disc doesn’t really showcase Blu-ray at it's best, as there is little if anything done with the available technology. Still, if the film is your primary interest, then this is the best version you're likely to get. There is only a single audio track, a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, which does what is can. The soundtrack comes over really well in this and for once almost becomes a character of its own. The film is mostly made up of people talking and the track was able to reproduce even the quietest of conversations with clarity.

There isn’t a lot by way of extras, and what there is, is in standard definition. You get a full length commentary by Tony and John Gilroy, mostly discussing various aspects of the shoot. There are the scenes involving Michael’s relationship with his girlfriend (5 min, 34 sec) all of which hit the cutting room floor, and would have detracted from the central narrative. This comes with an optional commentary.

In the end, although this doesn’t really make for a great Blu-ray, the increase in picture quality and the overall performances and story make the film worth owning.


Charles Packer

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