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Oct 24, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Michael Clayton

Spending the weekend out of town and coming back to the grind with a 3 day backup of work can really wreak havoc on the whole blogging schedule. (For the record, I went to Puerto Penasco aka Rocky Point to hang out, drink beer, drink tequila, watch the Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers concert, enjoy yet another sandstorm and sit at the border for close to four and a half hours. At least the sandstorm didn't hit until the day we left.)

Anyway, I'm back and am two reviews behind schedule, the first of which, as you can tell from the title of this post, is Michael Clayton. Due to the whole "lots of work, not a lot of time" scenario, I'll attempt to keep them short and sweet, but somehow I know they'll end up being the same length as any other review I've done, thanks in no small part to rambling, incoherent prefaces such as this. On to the review...

I read this line in another review of Michael Clayton, but it's good enough that it warrants my blatant stealing and reprinting here (I believe it was in the Phoenix New Times, so I'm even crediting my source): Clayton is the best John Grisham film adaptation ever. Only problem is, it's not a Grisham story. It would also be well described as Syriana meets The Firm, as it leans heavily on themes from both, though never feels too much like either.

The narrative has a lot of nuances and side plots, but generally biols down to this: Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is a "fixer" at a big honkin' law firm. Said law firm has as a client some generically named "environmental" company (Westfield? Chesterfield? UnitedNorth? Who can remember?) that may or may not be up to some improprieties (bet on "yes"). When the proverbial turd hits the ceiling, in the form of the firm's star litigator going a bit bonkers, Clayton is brought in to fix the situation, get their client off the hook, ensure that millions of dollars continue to flow, save his child, restore the ozone layer and bake a mean cake. Or something like that. But then those morality questions keep nagging like a fly at a picnic. What if his firm's client really is guilty? Is the litigator so insane that he's actually the sanest of them all? Is being a compulsive gambler and having a the debt of a failed restaurant venture enough to make Clayton compromise himself to save his ass, and the collective asses of his firm? Can I stop using lame, cliched writing conventions?

For the type of film it is (legal thriller), writer/director Tony Gilroy nails it. There's only so much weight that can be granted a film of this genre (even with the environmental issues brought forth), but this, like Fracture and Breach from earlier this year, plays to its strengths (namely strong writing, a well-rounded cast bringing their A-game and solid but not flashy directing) and plays them often. Clooney, as I had anticipated, is refreshing in a mood (defeated, pissed off) not normally played by him (though Syriana does come to mind). Tilda Swinton is underused and underutilized but definitely serves her purpose in classing up the joint, as Sydney Pollack and Tom Wilkinson do as well. The real coup, though? Michael O'Keefe, Danny Noonan himself, has a decent-sized role as one of the partners in the firm, and an a**hole-ish one at that.

"I like you, Betty."

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin!"

3 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Michael Clayton"

Sheamus the... said...

looking forward to seeing this.

erikko said...

he's still attended it's premiere despite a bandage with his girlfriend

sexy actor

RC said...

totally see the john grisham connection. good call, and good steal!