Oct 22, 2007

Michael Clayton

I am eternally grateful that George Clooney uses his star power to produce smart, thoughtful adult drama. Michael Clayton, his latest film from his production company Section 8, continues that tradition. It is a film well told, adroitly acted and occasionally insightful. Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a "fixer" for a monolithic New York law firm. He was previously an attorney of distinction, but for 15 years he has done the jobs needed for his employers, expediting situations and making sure their clients' needs are met. His latest task is to protect and shepherd Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), a high powered Attorney who has come to the end of his tether. Edens has been defending UNorth, an agrochemical company, for six years against a $3 Billion Class Action. Although a superb lawyer, he is sickened by the corporate machine he is defending and suffers a nervous breakdown. As Clayton enters this murky world, he starts to question his world too. UNorth is a multinational giant, whose chief counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) is going to any measures to ensure the viable future of her employer. This is a story of corruption of power, loss of ideals and shady dealings. It has probably been told before. Big corporations seek to crush the little people, that sort of thing. But this film still manages to tell it quite well. Having said that, the film is also the story of a man lost. Clayton feels like his life has become worthless. He has next to no savings, due to poor investments and a encroaching gambling habit. Also he is recently divorced, although a ray of light for him is his intelligent and thoughtful son, with whom he has a strong bond. I would describe this film as worthy. It is generally well acted, especially the mesmeric Swinton, and tightly directed by first timer Tony Gilroy. It manages to hold a measure of tension and suspense, whilst never managing to connect on a substantial emotional level. It is perhaps, one for the mind, rather then the heart. Still a worthy ambition, I would say that any film should aspire to.

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