Michael Clayton [DVD]
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Thriller set in the murky world of corporate law. Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house 'fixer' at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. A former criminal prosecutor, Clayton takes care of his employer's dirtiest work at the behest of the firm's co-founder Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), to whom Clayton feels a deep loyalty. He arranges top-flight legal services and skirts through loopholes for their ethically questionable clients. Though burned out, disillusioned and hardly content with his job as a fixer, his messy private life has left him inextricably tied to the firm. Meanwhile, litigator Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) finds her entire company's future hinging on the outcome of a multi-billion dollar settlement overseen by Clayton's friend, star lawyer Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson). When Edens snaps and decides to blow the whistle on the questionable case, sabotaging the defence, Clayton finds himself in the centre of a conspiratorial maelstrom where he must decide between his loyalty and his conscience.
George Clooney already has one acting Oscar to his name, and its unsurprising that immediately after the release of Michael Clayton, there were many arguing he was deserving of a second. For without a doubt, as impressive as the film is, its very much Clooney who powers this one forward.
Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who previously adapted the Bourne movies for the big screen, Clooney takes the title role as a lawyer who goes in to do the jobs that, bluntly, nobody else wants to know about. And before long, Clooney discovers a cover-up that proves to be a mighty challenge to uncover, and one the inevitably conflicts him as a result.
Aided by a superb supporting cast that includes the likes of Sydney Pollack, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton at its best is a tense and effective thriller, written and directed steadfastly well by Gilroy. Its not without a few problems, most notably a comparably weak conclusion and one or two underdeveloped characters. But its still a worthwhile film, and very much worth seeking out to simply enjoy a terrific performance from a Hollywood leading man who absolutely refuses to shy away from edgier roles. Long may he continue to do so. --Jon Foster
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Top Customer Reviews
If you need crash, bang wallop every frame instead of every sixth frame, watch something else; for those with an interest in strong characterization, psychology and just a little social comment, sit back and enjoy.
What sets this apart is the quality of performances and excellent direction. Clooney, Swinton, and Wilkinson are top class.
The director also makes the film more interesting with the relatively slow movement of the plot at the beginning.
There are some great scenes, such as those with Clayton doing his work and forced to bring his son along with him as he has custody for the day.
Swinton well deserved her Oscar for her performance as the lawyer who has gone past the point of return and has no conscience to wrestle with any more.
One complaint would be the ending which is perhaps a bit too swift and tidy.
Overrall though a very good film.
Clayton's suit, car and office scream "big shot", but he's actually a professional and personal failure: divorced, addicted to gambling and in debt to some unseen unsavoury characters. His employer, a prestigious Manhattan law firm personified by Sidney Pollack, regards the 'working-class boy made good' as a highly-effective janitor, but nothing more. In short, Clayton is a smooth-talking, immaculately-dressed disaster zone.
A bad week for Clayton gets even worse when his friend and senior colleague Arthur Edens (played by a somewhat OTT Tom Wilkinson) has a breakdown. Edens has spent years defending a toxic weedkiller made by agrochemical giant U North. His evasions and changes of venue have dragged out the case, earning his law firm millions while prolonging the agony of farming families affected by U North's carcinogen. But Eden's mental collapse causes a Damascene conversion, prompting him to secretly (then not so secretly) switch sides.
Clayton unsuccessfully tries to contain the situation while U North's highly-strung, ruthless chief counsel (Tilda Swinton), has more radical plans. Swinton's role is rather less interesting - a caricature friendless, obsessive career woman - but her verbal sparring with Clooney is fun. The whole film is beautifully shot and draws you into a rich world of Upper East side apartments owned by wealthy lawyers, Westchester retreats owned by their even wealthier clients, Clayton's down-to-earth family of cops and U North's sterile corporate videos.
The direction and cinematography are first-rate as well. Much has been made of a central scene where Clayton gets out of his car after driving along country roads as the day is dawning. He's looking for something, but we don't know what it is until three horses appear on the horizon. The expressions on his face as he approaches them tell us all we need to know about his feelings: weary, regretful, disappointed, resigned. And then something else happens, which changes everything for him, and leads to a sort of redemption. But it's the moments just before that event which stay with you long after this delightfully intelligent film is over.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've watch this film on numerous occasions and never tire of seeing it.Published 1 month ago by Neville
One of the best George Cloony films, with a storyline that keeps the audience transfixed.Published 4 months ago by Mr. Ronald S. Dodd
Initially not the easiest of plots to follow, but full of intrigue and worth getting to the end.Published 6 months ago by Stave