Michael Clayton

"Extraordinary"

Michael Clayton Review


Slowly but surely, George Clooney is venerating different decades from Hollywood's storied past. His Ocean's larks with Steven Soderbergh are throwbacks to the swinging '60s. He resurrected the paranoia of 1950s McCarthyism in his directorial effort Good Night, and Good Luck, then recreated a sinister, post-World War II film noir in The Good German (also with Soderbergh). Confessions of a Dangerous Mind paid goofy tribute to '70s small-screen icon Chuck Barris. Later this year, Clooney will crib comedic styles from Cary Grant's 1940s romper-stompers for the romantic farce Leatherheads.

And then there is Michael Clayton, a gripping and complicated thriller with hush-hush undertones that would fit comfortably alongside similar films from the 1970s -- think of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation or Alan J. Pakula The Parallax View, because Clayton writer-director Tony Gilroy certainly had pictures of this fabric in mind.

The suspicious Clayton moves like a '70s picture but has roots in modern industrial problems such as corporate deception and greed. Attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) leads the defense team in a $3 billion class-action suit filed against U/North. The company is being sued by salt-of-the-earth farmers because of a germ killer U/North used despite knowing it was hazardous to people's health. Pay little attention to the details, though, because this plot is one of the largest MacGuffins we've seen in years. The story is about the lawsuit without really being about the lawsuit, if that makes sense. The picture, after all, isn't titled U/North, right?

No, Gilroy chose Michael Clayton because his script eventually focuses on the man (Clooney), a legal fixer and B.S. filter for corporate law firm Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. His weight is felt when Edens' guilty conscience catapults him over the edge of sanity. Edens obtained documents proving U/North knew of the chemical's harmful effects, but buried the findings to continue turning profit. Now Edens wants to blow a few whistles, and the higher-ups and Kenner, Bach & Ledeen assign Clayton to ensure that doesn't happen.

As a writer, Gilroy adequately balanced tension and plot in three Bourne movies and Proof of Life. His iron-clad Clayton script improves his storytelling skills. He has a solid grasp on a muddy morality mess -- not an easy task. This multi-layered character study requires audience patience as it constructs the tiers, but rewards us with surprising discoveries. Clooney and Gilroy keep character details in the shadows. They both comprehend when and where to shine a metaphorical light, though, unraveling the plot and revealing another piece to this complicated individual.

Directorially, Gilroy shows us the sweat that paranoia can produce. His tightly paced film teeters along the proverbial razor's edge between doing what's moral and what is beneficial. Clayton has been doing the latter for so long, he's not sure he remembers how to do the former. Gilroy also has a good eye for shots that say more than what is initially implied.

These morally ambiguous characters seem to attract Clooney. He's at his best wallowing in the gray area between noble and devious. Even his highest-profile roles fit the mold, from well-intentioned con artist Danny Ocean to crime fighter Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne.

Clooney gets great support from his co-stars. When not producing and directing, Sydney Pollack remains capable of dramatic potency as an actor. He is excellent as Marty Bach, a partner in Clayton's firm and a man who has grown weary putting out fires. Wilkinson can work up a frenzy, but he also musters compassion for his emotionally scarred lawyer. And Swinton, the opposite end of the spectrum, is as cold and clinical as the picture needs her to be. In one pivotal scene, Swinton can be seen rehearsing the lies she will give in an interview. Gilroy helps blur the line between fiction and fact by interspersing her practiced speech with the actual media cross-examination. It's one of those crisp interactions Gilroy uses throughout his excellent film to wring deeper meaning out of what could have been a simple scene.

Swinton peruses her copy of If I Did It.



Michael Clayton

Facts and Figures

Run time: 119 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th October 2007

Box Office USA: $49.0M

Box Office Worldwide: $93M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Castle Rock Entertainment, Mirage Enterprises, Section Eight Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 178 Rotten: 19

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Michael Clayton, as Arthur Edens, as Karen Crowder, as Marty Bach, as Barry Grissom, as Mr. Verne, as Mr. Greer, as Mrs. Greer, Austin Williams as Henry Clayton, as Ivy, as Gerald

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Advertisement
Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.