Michael Clayton appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. After a rough start, the disc eased into a much more satisfying visual presentation.
Those first few minutes definitely suffered from some significant concerns. Grain seemed awfully heavy, and the movie demonstrated a rather jaggie, blocky look. For instance, check out Clooney’s hair at the poker game; the artifacts made George’s coif appear really rough.
Some mild instances of those concerns still materialized over the rest of the flick, as I noticed occasional minor instances of edge haloes and blocky definition. However, the problems became much less significant and were pretty minimal over the majority of the film.
For those portions of the flick, I thought sharpness was solid. Very little softness showed up through this tight, well-defined presentation. Source flaws remained absent. I still noticed some light grain, but not much, and other defects didn’t come along for the ride.
In terms of colors, Clayton went with the subdued side of natural. For the most part, the movie adopted a pretty earthy tone, though the hues never felt overly stylized. They were realistic enough to satisfy. Blacks were dark and deep, and shadow detail seemed quite good, as low-light shots demonstrated fine clarity. Some of the artifacts were too noticeable for me to give the DVD a grade over a “B”, but after its first few minutes, the transfer was usually very satisfying.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Michael Clayton, it presented an unsurprisingly laid-back experience. This wasn’t a dynamic action flick, so general ambience dominated the soundfield. I thought it added a little environmental material but nothing that stood out as memorable. Even the sequence in which Clayton’s car exploded remained unimpressive in terms of scope. Music provided a little more kick, but overall, this was a subdued mix.
At least I thought audio quality was quite good. Music showed nice range and clarity, with crisp highs and solid lows. Effects lacked much punch, but they were acceptably accurate and clean. Speech was an important commodity and worked fine. The lines were always natural and concise. This became a serviceable mix that seemed appropriate for a film of this sort.
When we head to the DVD’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy. The brothers sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They start with a look at the project’s origins and development before they dig into cast and performances, editing and cinematography, story and deleted scenes, score, sets and locations, and a few other production specifics.
Even though they claim to hate self-congratulatory commentaries, the brothers can’t resist the urge to throw out a lot of praise, especially as the flick progresses. Nonetheless, they go over more than enough good info to make this a worthwhile discussion. Tony dominates and digs into plenty of informative subjects. I could live without the happy talk, but I think the track emerges as a generally good one.
Three Additional Scenes last a total of five minutes, 30 seconds. The first (3:23) shows a secret romantic fling between Clayton and a coworker, while the second (1:22) shows the follow-up for the hit and run case Michael handles. For the final clip (0:45), we see more prep for the planting of the car bomb. Scene One feels pretty superfluous to me; it’s vaguely interesting to learn something about Michael’s private life, but I don’t think it adds to anything since we already get a good feel for the dead-end life lived by Clayton.
Scene Three is pretty pointless, I believe, as it’s just technical chit-chat, though it does attempt to tell us why the baddies went with such a noisy way to kill Michael. I like Scene Two, as it’s good to find out just what Michael does for that case. Yeah, it doesn’t really serve the plot, but it bothers me that the final cut leaves us hanging about the hit and run, so I like that segment.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Tony and John Gilroy. They tell us a little about the scenes and let us know why they cut them. Their remarks give us some nice insights.
A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Get Smart, The Brave One, 10,000 BC, Shall We Begin?, State of Play and The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. No trailer for Clayton appears here.
If you desire a nice throwback to the stark dramas of the 1970s, Michael Clayton should satisfy you. It maintains that era’s grittiness and lack of sentimentality but still manages to feel modern and fresh. Some excellent performances help buoy it and make the movie memorable. The DVD comes with erratic but usually satisfying visuals, acceptable audio and a few decent extras. I don’t think this is a great DVD, but the movie deserves your attention.