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When word spread that the latest Woody Allen film was a triumphant return to form for the once-acclaimed director, many could be forgiven for rolling their eyes and expecting the worst once again. After recent lackluster efforts such as Hollywood Ending and Anything Else failed miserably, many were thinking Allen’s best days were well and truly over. Melinda & Melinda was a valiant attempt at regaining some form, but even that film failed to really reach the heights of some of his classics from the seventies. I was one of the few who enjoyed The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion, but that was more trite direct-to-video fare than an out-and-out winner.

The British press were somewhat divided on the success of Match Point, Allen’s brooding drama set in the upper classes of London, with some hailing it as a long overdue stroke of genius and others a misdirected attempt at portraying Britain’s social elite. Whatever their opinion, the film needed more than a change of setting to win over audiences.

Match Point
Feature
Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a tennis player who never quite made it to the big time. When he returns to London to work as a tennis pro at the local racquet club where only the privileged come to play, he soon meets a lovely young woman named Chloe (the delightful Emily Mortimer). Chloe, the sister of one of Chris’ tennis buddies, Tom (Matthew Goode), comes from a very well off British family, and manages to score a plum job for her new boyfriend in her father’s company. When Chris becomes a success in business everything looks incredibly rosy. Before long he and Chloe get married and look to be heading towards a life of love and riches.

Of course the story wouldn’t be complete without one hell of a fork in the road. Tom’s fiancée Nola (Scarlett Johansson) oozes sex, and before long Chris is drawn to her charms and chooses lust over his conscience. The consequences are enormous, with Chloe and Tom oblivious to the pair fooling around behind their back. The breaking point occurs when Nola falls pregnant, and her soon-to-be husband isn’t the father. All hell breaks loose, but the crutch is that Nola and Chris can only talk to each other about it. Chris has to make a decision, and the way he goes about it makes for one of the craftiest dramas of recent times.

Forget all the detractors, because this one is an absolute gem from start to finish. Allen has crafted a brooding drama that signals a remarkable comeback from a director who was completely written off by most. He has done away with the gimmicks (see Melinda & Melinda, Hollywood Ending) and the re-hashing of old, more successful narratives (see Anything Else) and simply written a compelling story and let it play out unhindered on screen.

Match Point
Jonathan Rhys Meyers takes a while to get used to, with his strange scowl and aloof style quite unique, but once his character gets in deeper and deeper Rhys Meyers delivers on his chance to shine. The same can be said for the supporting cast. It’s no secret that I’m a big Emily Mortimer fan, and she does another solid job with less screen time than you would expect. Scarlet Johansson is the logical choice as sexpot Nola and despite the criticism from some circles, succeeds in giving us an aggressive but alluring performance. Maybe it’s a coincidence that this is one of Allen’s first outings for quite some time where he doesn’t appear on screen, but even a seventy year-old could’ve realized that this wasn’t the kind of film which needed his typical shtick.

It is incredibly pleasing to say that the master is back to his best with this one. The real test, however, will be his follow-up efforts, the first of which being Scoop. Johansson is attached again, with Hugh Jackman stepping in to tell another tale of infidelity, this time concerning an American journalist, ironically also set in London. If Allen can continue his form the fickle movie-goers might forgive him for a run of bad films and remember his career as full of highlights. If not, then the blip on the radar becomes bigger, and such an accomplished director might unfortunately be seen as one who really faded badly towards the end of his career.

Video
Thanks to the lack of any extras and a mono soundtrack, all the resources have been poured into the 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Everything comes up brilliantly, thanks largely to the way the shots were filmed in the first place. Colours are vibrant among the dull palette of the London surrounds, the sharpness is great (particularly in the close ups) and there are no signs of any imperfections throughout. While the transfer is sparkling and comes as no surprise considering it’s a new release, this is still one of the better efforts of recent times.

Match Point
Audio
It was Allen’s decision to include only a mono soundtrack on this release, which suggests he shot the whole thing in mono in the first place. It’s an interesting choice, especially considering some of the classical operas dotted throughout the film. The soundtrack could have done with some extra punch, something which a stereo mix could have helped with. We all know of Allen’s disdain for extra features on DVD, but his choice of a mono soundtrack is a bit of a surprise.

That said, there’s very little wrong with the soundtrack as it is. Dialogue clarity is good, the music is still pumped out quite well and the ambient sounds are still heard among everything else. A stereo mix should really have been included, but what we’ve got here isn’t all that bad after all. Just don’t think about using it to show off your new surrounds.

Extras
Surprise, surprise, there’s nothing on this disc to speak of because Allen is quoted as saying they are completely unnecessary. And without the director’s involvement any extras would be close to meaningless anyway, so we get a feature only disc here. Don’t hold out hope for a special edition, because this is the best you’ll get.

Match Point
Overall
A remarkable return to form from a man who was in danger of slipping well and truly into permanent mediocrity if this effort wasn’t up to scratch. The uninitiated would have probably failed to notice that it was a Woody Allen film at all, such was the departure from his usual style. This time around it’s just a compelling piece of drama with some quite unique twists and turns along the way to keep you glued to the screen. The disc itself is rather average, with a great transfer accompanied only by a mono soundtrack an no extras to speak of. In all the film is brilliant, but what we get here is a pretty sub-standard disc.


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