George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swift, Sidney Pollack, Michael O’Keefe, Danielle Skraastad
Michael Clayton is the critically acclaimed drama starring George Clooney. It was nominated for several Oscars, and won an Academy Award last night (Tilda Swinton – Performance by an actress in a supporting role). Leading man Clooney portrays a character that is good at “fixing” the problems of the multi-billion dollar law firm he works for, yet can’t manage to take care of his own life.
Clooney, as Michael Clayton, is on retainer for a high profile New York law firm, and is put in charge of taking care of the senior partner, Arthur Edens. Edens, played by the Oscar nominated Tom Wilkinson, is an untreated manic depressive who has a catharsis of justice on behalf of the plaintiff whom he was hired to obliterate in court.
Clayton blindly follows orders and has allegiance to the firm that supported him throughout his entire life as a lawyer. His boss, played by Sidney Pollack, goes the extra mile for him and gives Clayton money to pay his brother’s gambling debt. In return, Pollack’s character expects complete, unchallenged loyalty.
Clayton’s allegiance comes into question when the convoluted allegations of Edens begin to ring true and Clayton’s own life is threatened when a hit is placed on his life. Add to that the intermingling scenes of Clayton interacting with his family (to establish his family loyalty/identity); scenes of his own gambling habit; flashback of a joint business venture gone awry and scenes where we discover he is a divorced, single father who loves his son…and you have a very discontinuous storyline.
To its merit, this film has outstanding acting – notably all the leads; especially George Clooney and Tilda Swift. Swift plays the front woman for the company Clooney’s firm is defending. It is refreshing to see a woman villain played with such composure and finesse.
Having said that, this film did not meet the five star quality the media is giving it. Interspersed storylines make for an uneven feel in this film. Michael Clayton has a relationship with his son that in the beginning is pivotal yet goes to the wayside as the film comes to its conclusion.
As I left the theatre, I felt mildly entertained. It wasn’t until two days later as I happened to turn the TV on CBS Sunday Morning that I felt an eerie sense of déjà vu.
On the television screen was a commercial from an actual corporate chemistry company. It looked like it could have been from the Michael Clayton film. It nearly replicated the commercial in the film. The company advertising in the film was responsible for causing cancer. At first glance I thought it was an ad for the movie, but as I listened closely I discovered it was a real commercial.
They say that art reflects life. In this film, the big corporate industry was at the root of a significant amount of capital gains and human loss. It made me wonder if that is the underlying appeal of Michael Clayton; that perhaps fiction is as true as reality.
Rating: Four Chic Stars
Jan’s Movie Rating System:
5 – Top notch entertainment
4 – Compelling, Heartwarming, Thrilling, Comical
3 – The a) story b) actors c) special effects saved/made this movie.
2 – If you are bored watch it, or wait for DVD
1 – Don’t bother. Too morose, too violent, too blasé, an enigma.