Gary Dean Murray
Clooney is having an interesting career. Since his breakout from TVís ER,
he has gone back and forth between art house and Cineplex. With every
Oceanís film, there is a Good German. He rides the electric
rails between box office blockbuster and indie cred while never falling onto
that shocking third rail. His latest film that combines elements of both
worlds is Michael Clayton. It is easily his best shot at getting an
Oscar and one of the strongest films of the year.
The movie begins like a
jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are all over the place just not put together.
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is a Ďjanitorí, a fix-it guy used by his
firm Kenner, Bach & Ledeen's to figure out the right angle to make problems
go away. And does his firm have a problem. They represent U North, a
pesticide company in a three billion-dollar class action suit. The lead
attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) became a crazy man at a deposition,
stripping down and ranting. It seems that he needs his medications to keep
focus. But by not being on the pills, he gets an insane moment of clarity
both about his life and the case. He sees himself as Sheba, the Destroyer.
And he is having secret conversations with the victims of the class action
suit. All this spooks U Northís lead lawyer Karen Crowder (Tilda
Swinton), herself a frail bird in a world of lions. She is worried about
the firm that is representing the case, employing nefarious people to keep
tabs on the litigation team. She wants the suit settled and over, without
going in front of a jury. There are ghosts in her closet.
Michael has a
few demons of his own. He is an addictive gambler and is 80 Gs in debt with
some very unsavory characters. He hates his job, even though he is very
good at it. With a loan from his boss Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) he is
indebted to the firm. Since he has to figure out what is going on with the
U North cast; Michael Clayton is almost our Sam Spade, an investigator out
of his league. The film goes along while Michael (and the audience)
finds out the truth behind U North and Arthur Edens and how far Karen
Crowder will go to fix her problems. In easy to understand terms,
Michael Clayton is equal parts thriller and political statement with a
character study thrown into the mix.
To begin with, the
supporting characters are all Oscar worthy. Tom Wilkinson gives his Arthur
a soul, something missing from most lawyers. His face is heartbreak past
the point of saving. Tilda Swinton is not afraid to show herself in an
unflattering light. She is a trapped person trying to do any and everything
just to save herself. It is desperation to the nth degree.
Director/writer Tony Gilroy takes threads of plot and pulls them together to
make a picture. He juggles time and character while never losing his
focus. It is an amazing job of complex storytelling. He keeps one on the
edge of the seat without gunplay and car chases. By and large, the
biggest praises have to go to George Clooney. His Michael Clayton is a
flawed and fragile individual but one with a fire smoldering inside. By
realizing the difference between what is right by the client and right by
the world, he develops something he had lost, a conscience. One little
point, by doing what he does at the end (no spoilers here); he would more
than likely be disbarred. This film is already making some of
the top ten criticís lists months before they are released. It easily is
one of the top films of the year and an early Oscar contender. George
Clooney may actually get that coveted stature with Michael Clayton.
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