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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Statement
The Statement
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // April 27, 2004
List Price: $26.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Robert Spuhler | posted May 6, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

David Mamet claims that an actor, no matter how talented, cannot save a bad script. Whether that is true or not, The Statement is a compelling example that actors can overcome poor direction, as Michael Caine and Tilda Swinton elevate what otherwise would be a suspense film that director Norman Jewison managed to flatten, sucking all the suspense from an otherwise solid script.

Caine plays Pierre Brossard, a Nazi collaborator in the days of the Vichy regime in France who was directly responsible for the death of seven Jews. Decades later, his case is reopened, as the government wants to prosecute him for crimes against humanity, others want him dead and the Catholic Church simply wants to turn its back on him. Who will get to him first – or will he escape into the ether again?

Michael Caine may be the most talented senior actor working today. Everything about his portrayal of Brossard is on the money, from his failing health to his control issues to his desperation. This role deserves to be mentioned alongside Thomas Fowler in The Quiet American and Garth in the underrated Secondhand Lions in terms of Caine's best performances.

But while such a performance is to be expected from Caine, Tilda Swinton may surprise some. As Annemarie Livi, a judge looking to bring Brossard to justice, Swinton is surprisingly vulnerable, with her own neurosis on display for all to see. Her role is underwritten – this is Caine's film in the end – but Swinton is still a compelling screen presence.

It is amazing, then how a film with solid to brilliant performances from the cast and based on a fascinating story can come off as so flat. The main reason for that is because the twists are telegraphed far in advance. Early in the story there is a character that takes photos of Livi and Colonel Roux (Jeremy Northam). Who does he work for? Why is he following the duo? We found out not five minutes later, as an opening shot of a government employee's office desk shows those same shots. That could have been the payoff, the twist – instead, it's given away before the end of the first act.

It should be noted that many objected to the dichotomy between the setting (France) and the accent of every character in the film (English). I did not find it distracting, but it is important to acknowledge that no one here gets to show off their mastery of the French language – or even give us a Josh Cleese-esque accent.

The DVD

Video:

The Statement is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks very good. The black and white shots in the opening lack in contrast, but once the film shifts to present day the colors have good separation and there are few to no artifacts or examples of edge enhancement.

Sound:

The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but it is not of much use for most of the film. Some sparse effects and parts of the score fill the back speakers on rare occasion, but the concentration is in the front speakers. Dialogue is clear and very easy to understand.

Extras:

There's a fluff featurette on the making of the film included on the DVD. It manages to say nothing. Much more interesting is a pair of interviews with Caine and Jewison, though both are more interested in not stepping on any toes. Deleted scenes are included as well.

The best extra is the feature-length commentary with Jewison. He's not a dynamic speaker, but he has a great deal of insights into what to do behind a camera. His commentary is more like a film school lecture than the normal behind-the-scenes stories that are often the focus of such a track.

Final Thoughts:

The Statement is billed as a thriller, but the thrills are sucked out by an unusually poor directorial effort by Jewison. What remains are brilliant performances by two very talented actors. It's enough only to satisfy hardcore Caine fans or those more interested in acting than anything else.

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