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Positives: acting direction and plot
Negatives: screenplay, dialogue and execution.
George Clooney has never been my favorite actor as he tends to give two types of performances, either he is cold and calculating, Up in the Air (2009), Syriana (2005) etc., or supposedly charming and suave, Ocean's 11 (2001), Out of Sight (1998) etc., and he is just OK at playing both of these roles. The quality of the films he is in depends entirely on the people working around him as while he flails in The Peacemaker (1997) he comes across very well in this film which features talent such as Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson in front of the camera and Tony Gilroy and James Newton Howard working behind the scenes. An absorbing crime thriller as well as a character study this is a film with wide appeal as it is intellectual and thrilling at once.
‘Fixer' Michael Clayton, George Clooney, experiences a mid life crisis as he struggles to pay back debts owed to dangerous individuals over his risky investment in a restaurant and continues gambling despite knowing it is wrong. He works for a law firm run by the brusque Marty Bach, Sydney Pollack, from whom he wants a loan and he is directed to fix a situation with longtime friend and senior litigator in their firm, Arthur Edens, Tom Wilkinson. Edens has gone off of his medication leading him to strip naked at a meeting and decide to reveal the secrets of one of his major clients, the agrichemical conglomerate U-North, who have been poisoning people for years with their products. Edens goes missing and Clayton has to race to find him while also contending with his own personal issues. When the general counsel of U-North, Karen Crowder, Tilda Swinton, decides to have Edens murdered it leads Clatyton down a rabbit hole as he wants revenge and must fight to stay alive with assassins trailing him.
Crowder is possibly the most interesting character in the film as Swinton plays her as an insecure bundle of nerves desperately trying to prove herself to the others working in her corporate world. Her façade slips constantly and Swinton gets the awkwardness of someone who is not a natural public speaker right as her body language suggests how uncomfortable and stiff she is. As much as we want to see Clayton succeed and disagree morally with what Crowder chooses to do she is one of the film's major assets as she is a villain worthy of sympathy and a person who doesn't quite believe she fits in. In many ways she and Clayton are fairly similar.
Giving the most bombastic performance in the movie is Wilkinson whose rambling, excited monologue introduces the film as he talks about how "Life is a marigold" and references the various new age beliefs he has picked up. Wilkinson proves himself equally capable of portraying the desperation of a man who wants to be good and moral and he has a kindness to him that allows us to understand why Clayton is so loyal to him. Few other actors could have played the role as well as Wilkinson does as he has to walk a very fine line at so many points in the film and does it so well that you have to applaud him.
Finally, the titular Clayton is played with restraint by Clooney who keeps his anger and hurt locked away under a thin veneer of professionalism and manipulations. He has the power to walk into any room and dominate it but he also gets lost in his own thoughts as he wonders whether his life has taken the right track and laments missed opportunities. This is more than the average mid life crisis movie however as Clayton never achieves full closure, he is still distant from his son, semi-estranged from his brother and angry at the world, yet he has achieved some form of justice. Yes, the ending could be seen as taking the easy way out but more than most films of this sort we want to see what the outcome of a negotiation between these two characters will be and when Clayton comes out on top despite our interest in Crowder we do feel slightly triumphant as we want to see Edens avenged.
Tony Gilroy's Academy Award nominated directorial debut, "Michael Clayton," stars George Clooney as the titular legal fixer in question, whose firm encounters a snag when one of its top litigators turns coat in the face of a pending lawsuit. First off, as a fan of Tony Gilroy's co-writing work alone, I was pretty stoked to see this. And, to be sure, finally seeing Gilroy with his screenwriting gloves proverbially off made for such a satisfying cinematic experience. "Michael Clayton" is a carefully plotted, yet objectively engrossing story, punctuated with superb dialogue, deliberate thematic resonance, and incredible acting. It's a real bummer this didn't kick off a reinvigorated interest in the "corporate thriller" sub-genre, because the real-world feel and implications of everything just made for that much more of an entertaining watch. And, don't be fooled. Though you may find yourself questioning some decisions here and there, it all pays off in a terrifically gratifying conclusion that I won't soon forget. Fantastic work here.
Overall, Michael Clayton is not your typical thriller but it does deliver a great story providing the audience members can be patient. The film does an excellent job at following Michael as a character, because he too is someone with problems while trying to think of others in the mix. Tough choices are shown and at no point did Clooney's performance feel dull or unwise. It's a completely enjoyable film and for a 2007 film, it never really got the attention it deserved.
- Finesse Movie Reivews
I really wanted to like this movie. I am sorry to give it a 5.5/10. My main issues arise with the plot. Something about it is just boring. Yes it’s smart and sharply written but still boring. Half the time you are trying to figure out what is happening and half the time you are waiting for something to happen but it is all so passive. Even the murder of Arthur is the most passive murder of all time. All of the acting in this movie is great. I’m a huge Clooney fan and him and the other leads all nailed their parts. My other big problem though is that only one of the characters is memorable. That’s Arthur because he is going crazy. Michael is just about as boring as can be and they don’t even play on the fact that he is boring. I barely even knew him by the end of the movie because there is nothing to know about him. I liked the plot of this movie but the script needed many more details to make it memorable and more accessible.
A tense, well-acted and well-written legal drama/thriller that has good dialogue, a gripping narrative, and a trio of great performances from George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton.
Ok movie with George Clooney.
i know it's a long way..
As much as detailed it is, the feature wanders off onto surface where even though character has offered enough range and room to fill in, it still feels disconnected somewhat. The writing is witty especially on the protagonist for it is portrayed to have potential and superior than any other characters and still it goes into its desperate and vulnerable zone that helps ground the feature. Tony Gilroy; the writer-director, has done some appreciative research and work in this project which pays off well in here. George Clooney has done a decent work in it and is supported with a great cast like Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson. Michael Clayton peeps into the whole "law" world and manages to make it more from it and if it had gripping screenplay, the feature would have easily entered major league.
Revisiting a film like 'MICHAEL CLAYTON' in 2018, just over 10 years since its debut, yields depressing results, as we see that pretty much nothing has changed in the world of corporate law since 2007 with regards to these untouchable massive companies. Tony Gilroy directed a film that studies the worst of the worst (U/North in his script) and some of the outnumbered honest players (Clooney's Clayton) who try and tackle the big man behind the suits. Clooney does what he does best, portraying the tired, cynical-seeming middle-aged man with all the odds stacked against him, but the combination of Gilroy's masterfully crafted direction and Clooney's sharp-as-ever talent delivers riveting results. An important film about difficult to digest issues that succeeds as one of the best legal thrillers of the new century.
Disappointed in the lack of character development but damn, that ending is good.