Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Review - Michael Clayton

Danielle Ni Dhighe ( ) reviews the new George Clooney Film...

"Michael Clayton" - Despite the unassuming title, this is a smashinglygood thriller made with skill and conviction, and sure to garner someOscar nominations.Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is a fixer for a prestigious lawfirm. After the firm's top litigator, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson),suffers a manic episode and damages an important case, Clayton iscalled in to clean things up. He learns that Edens was defending acorporation against a class action lawsuit brought over a toxicchemical that killed hundreds of people when his conscience caught upto him, triggering his manic episode. Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton),the corporation's general counsel, hires her own fixers (RobertPrescott, Terry Serpico) of a more deadly kind to ensure that thetruth remains buried.Writer and first time director Tony Gilroy, who previously wrote orco-wrote the screenplays for all three "Bourne" films, makes animpressive debut at the helm with a smart, character driven thrillerthat sleekly unfolds like a cleverly planned maze. Several times Ithought the film was headed in one direction only to discover it wasactually bound for a much different destination. The rhythm of thefilm is that of a slow burn, but the slower pace serves to heightenthe suspense. Instead of relying on numerous action scenes, Gilroyturns to characterization, dialog, and a carefully plotted story tobuild and sustain interest. It's a throwback to the intelligentthrillers of the 1970s like "Three Days of the Condor", and thedirector of that film (Sydney Pollack) is one of the producers of thisfilm (as well as a member of its cast).Cinematographer Robert Elswit ("Good Night, and Good Luck", "Syriana")contributes low key lighting that neatly balances realism and style,while James Newton Howard ("Batman Begins", "Blood Diamond")contributes an atmospheric, almost ambient, score that plays a bigpart in setting the mood for the film. Film editor John Gilroy (thedirector's brother, who previously worked on "Narc" and "First Born")keeps the pacing tight, and the two hour film never once feels padded.Clooney combines his movie star charisma with a performance from thegut to deliver a strong portrayal of the title character, a man wearyof cleaning up the messes of others, whether they're clients orrelatives. Clayton seemingly lives on auto-pilot, doing what he doesbecause he doesn't know what else to do. Wilkinson is compelling asthe bipolar attorney whose conscience finally gets the best of him,and his manic rants ring with intensity. Swinton is sublime as KarenCrowder, from practicing an interview to chillingly ordering murdersin a way that gives her full deniability to what she does in the finalscene. Her desperation and ambition are palpable.This is a well-cast film from top to bottom with good performances bythe entire cast, including Sydney Pollack as the ruthless head of thelaw firm, Michael O'Keefe as one of the firm's partners, Prescott andSerpico as the other fixers, Merritt Wever as a young woman Edens istrying to help, Sean Cullen as Clayton's police officer brother, DavidLansbury as Clayton's gambling addict brother, Denis O'Hare as one ofClayton's clients, and Austin Williams as Clayton's young son.The basic plot of a corporation trying to subvert justice isn't a newone, but writer/director Tony Gilroy finds a fresh approach and playsit out with well-drawn characters, smart dialog, and a great cast. From the very first frame to the very last, I was completely engrossedin the story of "Michael Clayton".[4.5 out of 5 stars]

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