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MICHAEL CLAYTON ($36) is a highly enjoyable legal thriller made all the better by the top-flight performances of a terrific cast. George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton all picked up Academy Award nominations for their performances, in addition to the filmís other nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Score and Best Picture; however on Oscar night, only Swinton went home with the coveted statuette. In MICHAEL CLAYTON, Clooney portrays the title character, a somewhat down and out attorney, who operates out of a prestigious law firm as the firmís all around "bag man" and "fixer," providing required "janitorial services" to clean up legal messes that need to be swept under the rug.

The plot of the movie presents our "fixer" with a colossal mess involving one of the firmís senior partners, who suffers from bipolar disorder and has gone off his medication. This leads to an embarrassing episode, where he strips naked during a deposition of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against one of the firmís biggest corporate clients. However, the naked episode is just the tip of the iceberg, as the senior partner is also in possession of a long buried corporate memo that proves the corporation knowingly released a pesticide the killed a number of farmers. As you might expect, representatives of the corporation become aware of the leaked memo, and they intend to not only re-bury the document, but also bury anyone aware of its existence, including their legal council and the firmís "fixer." The cast of MICHAEL CLAYTON also features Michael O'Keefe, Sydney Pollack and Ken Howard.

Warner Home Video has made MICHAEL CLAYTON available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. I am happy to say that the Blu-ray release addresses all of my compression concerns regarding the filmís DVD counterpart. This Blu-ray release also confirms my assertion that the DVDís less than ideal compression marred what was a truly fine transfer. The filmís cinematography doesnít provide a big visual wow, but it is much improved in 1080p. Gone is the sporadic softness of the DVD, the image is much more consistent and decidedly crisp. Close-ups have an excellent level of definition, but medium and long shots are less so, but this appears to be by design of filmís cinematography. Like the DVD, colors have a realistic level of saturation, while the flesh tones are quite natural. Blacks are accurate, as are the stable whites. Contrast is generally very good, shadow detail is a bit hit or miss, but this too seems intentional, as the blacks crush together in certain sequences to obscure detail. The elements from which MICHAEL CLAYTON has been transferred are virtually pristine and there is a fine veneer of grain throughout that gives the presentation a nice film-like quality.

MICHAEL CLAYTON is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital 640kbps soundtrack. With a higher bit rate than standard DVD, this track offers some modest improvements over its counterpart, but I am sure a lossless soundtrack option would have improved matters even further. MICHAEL CLAYTON is first and foremost a talky legal drama, so the sound design isn't particularly aggressive. However, sound effects are very well deployed during a few key moments. Fidelity is fairly strong; with the music having an excellent sense of presence, plus the sound effects proves to be naturalistic and convincing. There is a surprisingly deep bottom end, which primarily affects the musical component. Voices are warmly recorded, plus the dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also provided, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extra features. There is a running Audio Commentary with director Tony Gilroy and film editor John Gilroy, plus Deleted Scenes with optional commentary.

MICHAEL CLAYTON is a first class legal thriller that features terrific Oscar nominated and Oscar winning performances. Warnerís Blu-ray Disc addresses my concerns from the DVD release making it the preferred way to enjoy MICHAEL CLAYTON in oneís home. Highly recommended.



Michael Clayton [Blu-ray] (2007)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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