Judge Bill Treadway uncovers a conspiracy to hide tense Michael Caine dramas under generic titles.
At the end of World War II, many of those involved with war crimes were prosecuted. Some got away. Until now.
Pierre Broussard (Michael Caine, Dressed to Kill, Hannah and Her Sisters) is a Frenchman with a dark secret. During the Second World War, Broussard aided the Nazis in the execution of seven Jews. He has been hiding ever since the end of the war with the help of the Roman Catholic Church. After Judge Levi (Tilda Swinton, The Deep End) reopens the case and dispatches Colonel Roux (Jeremy Northam, Gosford Park) to find Broussard, the old man finds himself on the run again. As if that wasn't enough, there is a secret group out to assassinate Broussard as well.
The Statement is one of the best films of the year so far. Everything about this adaptation of a Brian Moore novel works. It is a suspenseful thriller, built on cat-and-mouse games and puzzles rather than flashy visuals and gore. It is a vivid character study of a man who may or may not be evil incarnate. In fact, the film sets up the question of who really is the villain here—the criminal in hiding or the people trying to capture him. That duality is what makes The Statement such a harrowing, complex experience.
Norman Jewison's direction is unobtrusive and direct. He has been accused of being workmanlike in his approach, and for those who favor the overbaked flashiness of Baz Lurhmann, McG, et al., maybe this is the case. For those of us who favor strong acting and solid storytelling, however, Jewison is a genius. His work in The Statement is among his very best to date. He realizes that he is dealing with tough, complex material here. He has the courage to go with a truer ending than the standard pap Hollywood prefers these days. He also knows that adding glitz and glamour will only hurt the material. By being unobtrusive, he delivers the maximum possible impact.
Michael Caine turns in one of the best performances of his career here. He has the difficult assignment of making Broussard sympathetic. Even though we know he is a guilty man, his performance suggests qualities unheard of in a traditional villain. Should this old man be prosecuted for crimes that occurred sixty years prior? Caine's performance provides an answer that might surprise you. The rest of the cast is stellar, from Swinton's vindictive judge to Northam's determined colonel.
Columbia's DVD presentation of The Statement is a step up from previous Columbia discs but could still use some improvement. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is decent, although there is a blanket of grain that never quite goes away at any point during the film. I wouldn't mention it except that since this is a 2004 release, it shouldn't look this grainy. I doubt Jewison used 16mm stock, so there is no explaination for this graininess. The colors are subdued, but that is part of the film's visual style. There is some minor edge enhancement, but nothing that is a major distraction.
Audio is much better. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is good for its type. The dialogue is easy to comprehend, and the understated score comes across nicely through the sound system. The sole flaw is one or two moments of dissonance toward the middle of the film, but other than that, this is a great track.
Columbia has put together some extras, including a commentary track by director Norman Jewison, who has long been one of the most vocal of directors to record commentary tracks. His track for The Statement is no different. Chock-full of inside information and production stories, this is a track worth listening to. There are also several deleted scenes, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Watching them makes one realize that not every scrap of film deserves to be in the final cut.
Two interviews follow. The first is with Michael Caine, and the second is with director Jewison. Both are in question-and-answer format with an unseen and unheard inquisitor. These interviews are a must see. Caine is very straightforward and honest when discussing why he was drawn to this project. Jewison repeats some remarks from the commentary track, but there are some new nuggets to be found here.
"The Making of The Statement" is your standard making-of featurette that most DVDs contain these days. It is worth seeing once, but only the commentary track and interviews will bear repeat viewings.
At $26.98, I concede that The Statement is not a disc everyone will want to make a part of their collection. It is worth renting, however. See it and discover one of the best films of the year.
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Scales of Justice
• Feature Commentary by Norman Jewison
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