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“Money makes the world go round” is a phrase, which has been adapted to many films over the last couple of years. “Indecent Proposal” added a sexual twist to the idea that people can be bought with money. Now we have Michael Winterbottom’s (Jude) historical drama entitled “The Claim”, which is based on Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. Read on to find out more about the region two release of "The Claim".

Claim, The
The Movie
“The Claim” is set in 1867 in a small town in California’s Sierra Nevadas. The town is called Kingdom Come and is owned and run by Daniel Dillion, a wealthy business man. Dillion (Peter Mullan) has great plans for his town and one day hopes it will turn into a successful city. The folk of Kingdom Come respect the creator of the town.  Life there is very peaceful and civilised. If someone steps out of line they are punished by Dillion and quickly forgiven.

At the centre of Dillion’s plans for a bustling city is the introduction of a railroad. Realising this would bring better opportunities to his town, Dillion invites the chief surveyor of the Central Pacific Railroad for a visit. Dillion hopes that the surveyor will be impressed with the town, and conduct a survey of the surrounding area. Dalglish (Wes Bentley) the surveyor, arrives in the town and receives a warm welcome from the locals. Lucia (Milla Jovovich), the exotic local brothel owner makes sure that his visit is enjoyable as possible. Not easily swayed by the bribes and smiles, Dalglish sets about his task of assessing the town.

Arriving in town in the same convoy as Dalglish is refugee Elena (Nastassja Kinski) and her daughter Hope (Sarah Polley). At first they look like everyday travellers, moving from town to town. As the film progresses we learn more about their characters, and realise that Elena has an ulterior motive for visiting Kingdom Come. Elena is actually very sick and arrives in Kingdom Come with the aim of making up with Hope’s father. When Elena first arrives we are not aware of her past, but it soon becomes evident that Hope doesn’t know who here father is. After about thirty minutes of the movie it become clear that Dillion is actually the father, and in fact he sold his wife and daughter twenty years earlier. He was offered a large amount of gold for his ‘loved ones’ and the lure of being rich turned out to be too great. Now desperate to make up for his sins, Dillion sets about building a relationship with the pair. This is when things start to go wrong for Dillion, and his whole world turns upside down.    

“The Claim” is a powerful epic which I quite enjoyed. The strange thing is that not much actually happens during the movie. We see several people arrive and leave the town, but until the last twenty minutes of the film not much actually happens. Before watching the movie I read the back cover. The description talks about how things gradually go wrong when Dillion meets his wife. This is not really true.  One of my main complaints about this movie is the fact that things happen in a split second. The film ends too abruptly and certain key scenes arrive without any build up or mention.

Claim, The
Enough about the bad points, let me mention some of the positives. The acting overall is very good. There are some strong performances from Wes Bentley (American Beauty) and Peter Mullan. Mullan in particular has a difficult role to play yet looks at home as the troubled owner of Kingdom Come. Someone who does disappoint however is Milla Jovovich. As mentioned above she plays the owner of the local brothel. Her accent is appalling and overall she is not very convincing. The last movie I saw her in was Joan of Arc. Her performance in that movie was diabolical and sadly her role here is not much better. One of the most impressive things about “The Claim” is the scenery. Kingdom Come is situated between various mountains which are covered in snow. Also during the movie we are treated to various other shots which are beautifully brought to the screen. One thing I realised while watching the lovely scenery was that it is time for a holiday!

The film is presented with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There are a few blemishes which stop this transfer from being first class. The transfer is not a sharp and as detailed as it could have been. Certain scenes seem cloudy and grainy. Also, colours are not as vivid as you would expect and the overall appearance seemed a little washed out. Other than that the presentation is very watchable, and there was no sign of edge enhancement or damage to the print. Overall this is an acceptable effort, but not one to show off to your mates.

While the visual side of the disc did not stand out, the audio side is actually a surprise. Due to the nature of the film, most of the movie is shot outside. There are numerous storms which are portrayed realistically. The soundtrack made full use of all the speakers and the sound quality is crisp and precise. It felt like I was in the middle of a blizzard at several points in the film. My subwoofer had a good workout during some of the storms as well. The dialog is also very clear. Overall this is a very impressive soundtrack, which if I was honest I did not expect. Definitely the highlight of the disc.  

Claim, The
This is probably one of the poorest collection of extras that I have seen on recent DVD releases. To call it a collection is actually exaggerating the fact that there is only a trailer included on the disc. The trailer runs at just over two minutes and not really worth watching. It tries to make the film look exciting, but there is no narration until the final few seconds and overall it does a bad job of trying to sell the movie.

I find it quite strange that there are no other extras included on the disc. There are rumours flying about that the movie suffered from a lack of money towards the end of shooting, so that might have played a big part in not including any extras of note. It’s a shame though, as I am sure a "making of documentary" would have been a good supplement to the movie.  

"The Claim" offers high drama, good acting and breathtaking scenery. It may lack a little in the excitement stakes, but overall it is a compelling, entertaining and thought provoking movie. While I would recommend the movie, I am sad to say that the disc is a huge let down. The soundtrack and transfer are perfectly acceptable but the lack of extras is disappointing. If you are not too particularly interested in extras, then this package is probably acceptable for you. However, retailing at £19.99 I would expect a lot more for my money then just the movie. Good movie, poor disc!