Michael Clayton (2007)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
Tony Gilroy Tony Gilroy
Tom Wilkinson Tom Wilkinson
Michael O'Keefe Michael O'Keefe
Sydney Pollack Sydney Pollack
Danielle Skraastad Danielle Skraastad
Tilda Swinton Tilda Swinton

7.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Paranoid Thriller, Thriller
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: October 17, 2007
What a great weekend for movies this has been. Truth be told, this has probably been the single most productive and entertaining weekend I have spent at the movies all year long. Three - count them, three - class act pictures in the span of two days. It just doesn't happen these days. You can tell awards season is just around the corner when you start having that kind of luck. First was the amazingly visual "Across the Universe", followed by the engrossing "Elizabeth: The Golden Age". I had traveled the distance with a movie musical and a historical drama, so now it was time for a good old fashioned white knuckle thriller. "Michael Clayton" was the film and I have been eager to see this one for a while now, since I first caught a glimpse of that brilliantly constructed trailer. The film comes to us from Tony Gilroy. "Michael Clayton" represents his directorial debut, though he has penned scripts for "Dolores Claiborne", "Extreme Measures", "Armageddon" and all three "Bourne" films starring Matt Damon. Turns out, he's a far better filmmaker when he's serving as both writer and director. "Michael Clayton" is an absolutely flawless thriller, from top to bottom, that benefits from strong performances, and engaging storyline, and some of the best execution of any film this year. And, guess what - it's one of the best films of the year.

Follow me, if you can. George Clooney stars as Michael Clayton. Michael is a 'fixer'. He makes things happen for the law firm where he works. One day, he is called down to check on one of the partners at the firm, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), who stripped naked in a deposition room and seems to be off his medication. Edens is the chief litigator in a case for their client, U-North, which produces chemical products, among other things. Edens claims that U-North has been intentionally marketing a weed killer that causes tissue damage to human beings. U-North is being sued, and Edens thinks the firm is on the wrong side. Sydney Pollack co-stars as Marty Bach, one of the head partners at the firm. Tilda Swinton co-stars as Karen Crowder, one of the top executives at U-North, who will stop at nothing to make Edens insanity go away as soon as possible. Michael gets involved in this whole mess slowly, but then begins to realize that Arthur might not be as crazy as he seems. U-North has two hired goons who follow Michael and Arthur around, making sure they're not doing anything that might jeopardize U-North. Things get dark and violent in the film, but I don't want to reveal any of that. There is also a sideplot involving Michael's restaurant venture going under and his needing to find $75,000.00 to make that whole nightmare go away. Michael Clayton is the star of the film, and its his personal journey that makes for such an interesting picture.

This film is flawlessly constructed. The first few minutes of the film shows us what is happening with Michael, but it all seems a little foggy. Then something random happens and we realize we are about to be shown the events that lead up to that random event. Director Tony Gilroy knows how to weave a plot together seamlessly, and he does so here. We get to see every aspect of Michael Clayton's life, from the mystery surrounding just what he does for the law firm, to his relationship with his son and brothers, to his feeling of affection and admiration for Arthur. He is a good man who takes care of dirty business, but nothing on the wrong side of the law. Clooney plays Clayton like an overly intelligent man doing business that doesn't really showcase just how intelligent he actually is. Clooney plays him as a lost soul who does what he does because he has nothing else to do - not because he enjoys it. When his only means of escape is taken away in the blown restaurant deal, he feels threatened and panicked because he no longer has a way out of the job that he resents. George Clooney carries this film, and he is increasingly becoming one of the very best actors working today. He takes films that mean something to him, and he chooses roles that consistently test his range as an actor. This is his finest role to date, and he is quickly turning into the next Clint Eastwood with his talent in front of and behind the camera. I fully expect to see an Academy Award nomination for George Clooney in this film. He deserves it.

Alas, Clooney is not the only one that delivers. Tom Wilkinson is on fire as Arthur Edens, and gives us one of the most unique characters of the year, a man who turns on a dime, going from being as crazy as you could possibly imagine to being able to recite legal text like lightning. Wilkinson does most certainly deserve an Academy Award nomination for his work in this film, and I have a hard time believing he won't receive it. Tilda Swinton also proves herself, once more, in a very strong performance as the villain of the piece. She is another actress whose star continues to rise, and will keep doing so as long as she continues to choose her work so masterfully. And how long has it been since Sydney Pollack was this commanding? Just his presence on screen is commanding, and he adds so much to his few scenes in the film. And, though his role is very small, I do want to single out Michael O'Keefe, an amazingly talented character actor who most remember from comedies like "Caddyshack" and his role on "Roseanne". O'Keefe is starting to make more movies again, and I am so thankful for that because he has a diversity that can definitely be used more these days. Also, watch for Denis O'Hare and Julie White, two Tony winners, as a husband and wife in the film who have a very interesting scene with Michael Clayton. Lots of energy for little time.

I cannot recommend this film enough. From the opening narration by Tom Wilkinson, coupled with the random shots of the deserted office - we know "Michael Clayton" is not going to be your average thriller. And it's not - it's so much more. My recommendations to the Academy go as follows: George Clooney for Best Actor, Tom Wilkinson for Best Supporting Actor, Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress, Tony Gilroy for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay and the film "Michael Clayton" for Best Picture. Does that show how much I loved this film? Just the way Gilroy handles the closing credits shows his creative juices. So simple and so affective. With all of the big budget, over blown thrillers being released these days, it was nice to see a smaller and more independent effort that still had a big budget edge and some incredible performances from some big budget stars. "Michael Clayton" benefits so heavily from its cast. Some people say performances alone cannot carry a film, but I would disagree. Luckily for the performances, they don't have to because the script and direction are flawless. I repeat - flawless. Read my reviews. You won't find that word used a lot. But I am using it here. This film is flawless.

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danimigra #1: danimigra - added 03/15/2008, 07:21 PM
Tipical movie now days.. nothing new.... 5/10 for me.
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