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October 2007

By Wilson Morales



Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Tony Gilroy
Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy
Cinematographer: Robert Elswit
Composer: James Newton Howard
Cast: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Pamela Gray
Rating: R (for language including some sexual dialogue)




Not since Sydney Lumet’s early films and John Grisham’s novels about lawyers started hitting the big screen have we had a legal thriller that was clever, intense, well executed and well acted. Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote the fascinating, but fast-cut Jason Bourne films with Matt Damon makes a dramatic debut as a director with “Michael Clayton”, with George Clooney playing a loyal but cutthroat attorney out to ‘fix’ the firm’s problems.

Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a lawyer who’s been with the same firm for the last 17 years but is not a partner. He’s simply known amongst a few within the firm as “the fixer”. He washes away the client’s legal problems before they get bigger. If it’s a shoplifting incident or damaging stories in the press, Michael’s job is to lessen the blow. When his most trusted friend at the firm, the firm’s top litigator Arthur Edens (Wilkinson) appears to suffer a breakdown in the middle of defending an agrichemical company in a $3 billion class action lawsuit, the biggest case the firm has been working on for the last six years, senior partner and co-founder Marty Bachs sends Clayton to go seek Arthur and fix the problem before they get sued for malpractice. At the other end of the spectrum, in-house chief counsel Karen Crowder (Swinton) wrestles with nervousness as her careers hangs in the balance of winning this case for her firm U/North and can’t afford to have Arthur’s recent behavior jeopardize the case and her career.

Clayton, an ex-gambler, also has other issues to deal with. His drug-addicted brother has put him in a bind where he has to come up with a lot of money to pay off some debts before their restaurant goes dry.

What works for ‘Michael Clayton’ is the strong performances given by all of the actors in the film. From Clooney, who’s able to ditch his Danny Ocean persona to do something remarkably close to his Oscar winning turn in ‘Syriana’, to Tom Wilkerson, who totally brilliant in as the character we don’t know if he’s crazy or not, to even Sidney Pollack, who occasionally steps out of the director’s chair to show the world how good an actor he as well. We can’t forget the small roles in the film that make the film very intense. The story is a bit compelling and very mature that you need to keep up with the legal jargon to follow up with what’s going on with the story at hand.

If there was a film where you wanted to see that was intense, well executed, and well acted, ‘Michael Clayton’ is it. Sharply written, Tony Gilroy has made one hell of good film for his directorial debut.