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The Claim

review by Zach B.

Rated PG-13

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 108 minutes

Starring Wes Bentley, Milla Jovovich, Nastassja Kinski, Peter Mullan, Sarah Polley

Screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Based on he book "The Mayor Of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy

Directed by Michael Winterbottom

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Closed Captions, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (16 Chapters)

If there's a movie that got overlooked at Oscar® time last year, it's got to be "The Claim". Released very smally in 2000, the film got good reviews and a lot of buzz but not enough to catch voters attention. It was later re-released briefly in 2001. However, it was not enough. The film barely made anything at the box office, however, it's now on DVD and if you like a good drama, you should check it out and see what the (small) fuss was about. This movie isn't for everybody and I can see a lot of people getting bored with it, but if you have the patience and really like good cinema, you won't be disappointed. Hopefully more people will check it out on video and DVD.

The film is based on a book, and follows the events in the town Kingdom Come. Donald Dalglish is a railroad planner who is being bothered by a wealthy man named Daniel Dillon who knows that if he wants to continue his propserity, he needs a railroad to come through his town. However, things come to a halt when a mother and daughter named Elena and Hope arrive. What do they hold and how they are important to this story? I'd rather not say but let's just say this: the past comes back to haunt. The film deals with a lot of betrayal, drama and romance that moves nicely.

This film can be slow at times, but in the end it is a pretty rewarding experience. Again, this film won't knock everyone's socks off... people are sure to find this boring. But it's rich in its story. Great dialogue and great scenarios really move the plot along. The setting also has a role of its own. The bleak, cold and underwhelming snowy environment comes to represent a lot of the story.

Michael Winterbottom, who's work I've tremendously enjoyed, does a fantastic job here. The camerawork is stunning and beautiful with many marvelous wide shots. The editing is also good and so are the costumes and art design, but the performances here were really Oscar®-worthy and tremendous. Wes Bentley has a lot going for him, while Kinski and Jovovich show a lot of their stuff. Still, the two most impressive performers to me were Polley and Dillon. They were really great and bring so much to their roles. Both are so powerful and are the heart of the film. There's so much to like about "The Claim". While not everyone will appreciate it or get it, there's a lot to take in which film lovers will eat up.

Despite some little annoyances, "The Claim" looks terrific. The transfer is pretty sharp most of the time, but sometimes it can be soft and grainy. Blemishes and scratches plague the print but are never too distracting. Shimmering is present sometimes but it's annoying. The rich landscapes of the Sierra Nevada mountains are quite lavish, while detail and black levels are excellent. This film is beautiful with all the great shots I talked about, and the white snow and bleak colors really show off the film's presentation. A very good transfer that really gives off the majesty of the movie.

"The Claim" has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and it's quite good. There's a lot of nice subtle surrounds to bring the speakers to life. The winds roaring in the background, the beautiful Michael Nyman score, horses trotting, doors closing and footsteps. A lot of stuff does stand out without overpowering the viewer. It's usually a lot of the little things that bring it to life, but there are some other sequences. A very good track for the source material. English closed captions, French and Spanish subtitles plus a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track is included.

Despite a price higher than usual and the critical kudos, MGM has only included an anamorphic Theatrical Trailer. Go figure.

"The Claim" is a marvelous film, but it probably won't appeal to everyone. Still, if you like a rich drama you owe it to yourself to see "The Claim". You won't be disappointed.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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