It's a shame this movie only managed to snag one of its 11 Academy Award nominations, but that can be chalked up entirely to timing; THE GODFATHER: PART II was released the very same year. Any other year, CHINATOWN would've cleaned house. The one win it did manage was for Best Original Screenplay, a fully deserved achievement. Writer Robert Towne starts by creating a world that would appear almost conventional to anyone used to watching hard-boiled noir stories, but it's his handling of the characters, dialogue, mystery, and revelation of that mystery that make the film such a masterpiece.
Whereas in most films of this ilk, Jack Nicholson's character would always be one step ahead of the game (and the audience) in figuring out the big charade, here he merely appears to be ahead of the game, until he's knocked back and proven wrong time and time again. Likewise, the audience is knocked back with him, as he's forced to pick back up the pieces and we attempt to solve the case with him once more. Nicholson captures this flawed quality perfectly, delivering the snappy one-liners with sharp-tongued haughtiness, but then quietly questioning himself whenever the pieces don't quite fit.
The handling of Nicholson's character is one of the many film noir clichés turned on its head, and it leads to a picture unlike anything seen from the genre. It's gritty, bleak, intelligent, and a complete class act all the way. Arguably Roman Polanski's best work.
Chinatown: The Beginning and The End (19:30): Newly recorded interviews with Robert Towne, Roman Polanski, and Jack Nicholson shine a light on the story's conception and how the project came together. There's also a great deal of time spent on the film's ending, and how Polankski and Towne debated over what it should be. Very interesting stuff.
Chinatown: Filming (25:36): A continuation of the first featurette, this extra focuses more on Polanski's stylistic choices and how the film was shot.
Chinatown: The Legacy (9:40): This third featurette rounds out the main extras, and despite there not being a lot, at least what is here is worthwhile. Here we have a look back on the film, its release, the music, the reviews, and so on.
Also included is the film's Theatrical Trailer.