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Michael Clayton
8 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Tony Gilroy

Written By:
Tony Gilroy

Cast:
George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Michael O'Keefe, Ken Howard, Denis O'Hare, Robert Prescott, Merritt Wever, David Lansbury, Bill Raymond, David Zayas, Skipp Sudduth, Angelo Bonsignore, Brian Coleman, Peggy Friend, Pamela Gray, Amy Hargreaves, Neal Huff, Brian Koppelman, Doug McGrath, Chris McMullin, Stewart Summers, Julie White, Schuster Vance, Steven Weisz, Kevin Cannon, Jack Fitz, Emelie Jeffries, Sarah Nichols, Richard Hecht, Brad Lee Wind, Maggie Siff, Austin Williams, Clem Cheung, Katherine Waterston, Village, Rachel Black, Pun Bandhu, Remy Auberjonois, Christopher Mann, Terry Serpico, Sean Cullen, Alberto Vazquez, Susan McBrien, Lisamarie Costabile, Heidi Armbruster, Hiram Chan, Gregory Dann, Matthew Detmer, Susan Egbert, Sam Gilroy, Timothy Joliat, Paul Oquist, Jason Strong, Kimmy Suzuki, Cathy Diane Tomlin, Lisamarie Costabile


 
Michael Clayton (2007)
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Movie Review by Ben
December 24th, 2007

Ok, let's cut to the chase here. "Michael Clayton" is one of the best movies to come out this year, and one of the most engrossing thrillers in the past few years. It marks a very auspicious and confident directorial debut by screenwriter Tony Gilroy, the man who wrote the Bourne movies. It also features George Clooney in one of his best performances to date as a fixer at a law firm who suddenly grows a conscience that could get the best of him if he is not careful. Seeing this movie once will not be enough, as it is a movie you need to pay close attention to while watching.

The movie starts off with the title character coming into straighten out an extremely delicate situation involving one of the firm's strongest attorneys, Arthur Edens. During a deposition, he loses it and does a striptease and professes his love to one of the witnesses. He is played in a brilliant performance by an actor you can always count on, Tom Wilkinson. He has a difficult role where he plays a manic depressive who suddenly sees the case he is working on for what it is; a systematic killing of way too many people. Tom neither overplays or underplays the role, and he keeps you guessing as to whether he is really crazy, or if he really knows what he is talking about.

"Michael Clayton" is one of the few movies that have come out of Hollywood recently that really takes its time and doesn't rush the story for the benefit of those ADD audience members out there. It is a character driven film, the kind that we don't see enough in movies today. Some may get restless with all the talk that makes up the majority of the movie, but it all leads up to an incredibly intense climax and a suckerpunch of an ending. It is one of the best endings I have seen to a movie in sometime.

The remarkable Tilda Swinton is also on hand as chief counsel of the company in the lawsuit. She does not think that Clayton can fix this situation, so she decides to take control of the situation. The movie cuts back and forth between her speaking with others, and to her rehearsing what she will say to others. A perfectionist to say the least, she is incapable of separating work from her personal life. We see her alone in the bathroom and, without words, see her morally disintegrating into an abyss she will not be able to dig herself out of.

We see have see many movies like "Michael Clayton" before; the redemption where a seemingly bad guy develops a conscience and finally does the right thing. This one, however, is more grounded in the real world, so we are aware that the consequences can be much more severe and easier to get away with. We all have a cynical distrust of the corporate world in general, and the movie recognizes that. We find ourselves slowly cheering Michael on as he gets closer and closer to what Arthur was on to. It is a truth that even he cannot deny or tear himself away from. As a result, the redemption of this character feels genuine. That is not always the case with movies like these. It can be so easy to snicker at the sudden changes in characters like these, but here it happens before we really realize it.

This movie is also a great example of movie acting done with the eyes. So much can be spoken on film without words, and there are a number of characters that do just that. Granted, it helps and is preferable to have good dialogue in any movie, and this movie does have some great lines. But there are moments with the actors here that prove that old saying we here about from time to time,

"The eyes are the window to the soul."

Michael Clayton's life is really a mess. He is a divorced father of one young boy, he invested in a bar that went nowhere, he plays in secret poker games in hopes of making up some loses, and he is currently $80,000 in debt. George does brilliant work here showing the stress and anxiety in his eyes. This is a guy who is clearly going through a lot, and now he has even more to deal with now that his friend Arthur has gone off his meds. We slowly see his sadness turn to anger as he fines that he is betrayed by the powers that be.

Like I said before, this movie marks a very strong directorial debut for Tony Gilroy who has been a very successful screenwriter for a number of years now. This particular movie is one that has been on his mind ever since he wrote "The Devil's Advocate" a number of years back. The idea of this movie came to him during that period, and it is probably a composite of a lot of stories he overheard during his research of lawyers. He shows a confidence in letting the actor communicate without speak, and he does not seem preconceived in getting these actors to speak the lines the way he wrote them.

"Michael Clayton" is a movie you rarely get to see at the multiplex these days, and I hope that it is successful enough to inspire movies like it. It would be great to see a return to the filmmaking of the 1970's, even if that is wishful thinking.

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