Monday, February 25, 2008

Michael Clayton (2007)

* * * *

Despite having a remarkably unoriginal title, Michael Clayton succeeds due to a sharply written script, perfect casting, and strong performances from lead roles. Clayton is the directorial debut for Tony Gilroy, the writer behind all three films of the Bourne series, and stars George Clooney as an attorney who doesn't do typical "attorney" work, but works more as a fixer or legal handyman. Clooney has become synonymous with conspiracy films and this is no different, as the twisted inner-workings of the legal system are deeply explored. Clayton is responsible for pulling together the life of a manic depressant lawyer, Arthur Edens, played excellently by Tom Wilkinson, who has come off his medication and "seen the light" in terms of the case he had been working on for over five years. Tilda Swinton co-stars as Karen Crowder, one of the head-honchos for agricultural company U-North, who is trying to reach a settlement through the attorney Edens with those claiming they obtained cancer through U-North products. When Edens goes bananas, however, Swinton goes to all lengths legal and otherwise to maintain the integrity of her company and the settlement that is days from being completed. The dialogue that ensues is masterfully written and pieced together by Gilroy, as the pace of the film is quick, yet deliberate enough to envelop the viewer in the schemes being put in place by both sides of the story. Clooney fills the role of the down on his luck character who is smarter than everyone thinks he is just as well as he did in Syriana, and Swinton and Wilkinson are a double-dose of hysteria and conniving to balance the coolness of Clooney. Michael Clayton isn't anything that has never been seen before, in fact it plays like an homage to 1970s thriller/dramas that were well constructed and performed. In a genre full of average or worse entries, Clayton has a well-defined plot, doesn't over stay its welcome, and builds to an intense climax. The final scene, like most of Clayton, also isn't anything revolutionary. Unlike Clooney's last thriller, Syriana, which was too confusing for a vast majority of the audience, the plot of Michael Clayton is deep and clear. Because Gilroy built a plot in which every character's decisions, no matter how extreme, are made for a reason the viewer is shown and understands, the conclusion has much greater impact, and the case involved seems like something that could actually happen, and likely has happened. Hopefully Gilroy and Clooney will unite again in the future to continue to elevate the state of the conspiracy thriller genre and shed light on other shady dealings.

Good For: conspiracy-movie fans, Clooney fans, people who like legal movies

Bad For: those who are bored easily

The Gallery
The Economist: * * * *
The Surfer: * * *
The Film Maker: * * * *

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