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George Clooney
as Michael Clayton

Tom Wilkinson
as Arthur Edens

Tilda Swinton
as Karen Crowder

Sydney Pollack
as Marty Bach

Michael O'Keefe
as Barry Grissom

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Written and Directed
by Tony Gilroy

Running Time: 1:59

Rated R
for language including
some sexual dialogue.



Michael Clayton was a good, but not great, legal thriller that was a little too laid back for my liking.


Michael Clayton is a fixer at a law firm - he takes care of the problems no one else wants, or can, deal with. When the firm's top litigator goes nuts during a deposition, Clayton is called in to try and set things right. But what he finds is a secret that has been hidden for years, bursting to come out. Clayton has to decide whether to do what is right, or do what is expected of him.


I have to admit I was a little surprised when I saw Michael Clayton get nominated for seven Oscars this year. I, like a lot of people, thought it was your run-of-the-mill legal thriller that was no more or no less than your standard John Grisham novel. As it turns out, it was kind of both. First off I don't believe it was one of the five best films of last year, and I don't think Tilda Swinton deserved her Best Supporting Actress award (Amy Ryan was robbed!). That being said I didn't think it was a bad movie, just not the most engaging one I've ever seen.

Maybe I'm too used to big time blockbusters but I thought the movie wasn't sensational enough. I didn't think the underlying plot was worthy of feature length treatment. The $3 billion case in question dealt with whether or not a large company was making a town sick. That right there has been the plot in dozens of movies in the past, so there was nothing really there to hang your hat on. So the movie had to focus its attention on the characters. You had the bosses who wanted nothing more than to put everything to bed without losing billable hours. You had the litigator who goes nuts and decides to try and become the good guy. You've got the counsel for the large corporation who will do anything to keep the company afloat. And then you've got the star, George Clooney, playing the guy caught in the middle. I've seen all these people before. What was new about Michael Clayton?

The best parts of the film were the performances, especially from Clooney and Tom Wilkinson. Wilkinson did a great job alternating between crazed lunatic and brilliant lawyer. He could turn it on and off and would go into either persona when it suited him. But the movie rests completely on the shoulders of Clooney. Unlike most of his other roles, be they comedy or drama, this role had no hint of humor. There were no comical looks, sexual remarks, nothing that would remind you of the George Clooney you see joking and smiling on the red carpet. It was a very serious and reserved performance. There were times when he could have snapped and gone off on a rant, but he held himself back. There was a secondary story line with his character needing money to pay off a bad investment. That story line crashed into the primary one when he had the opportunity to get all the money he needed if he was willing to shove his friend under a bus. Clooney was definitely on top of his game this time around and completely deserved an Oscar nomination in what turned out to be a great year for male performances.


For such a well liked and award winning film, there weren't a lot of extras. In fact there were two - deleted scenes and a commentary track from the writer/director and editor. Neither of them makes the film a must-own, but the movie itself is worth a purchase. Hopefully in the future there will be a special edition version of the film that will have Clooney offering his thoughts, as well as a behind-the-scenes documentary. Those are usually more entertaining than a commentary track, at least to me.


So overall, I liked Michael Clayton. Not as much as many others, and I don't think it was the greatest movie of the year, but it was a solid film anchored by a terrific performance from George Clooney.

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reviewed 03/02/08

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