Michael Clayton

The fall movie season is by far the most rewarding time for film-goers. After countless mind-numbing summer blockbusters and big-budget actions films, the oscar movie season has begun with the release of Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut, Michael Clayton. In the vein of Michael Mann’s The Insider, this is a film of men-in-suits, heavily populated by quick, intelligent dialogue and three-dimensional, complex characters. This is cinema for adults.

Following an appointed law firm “fixer”, Clayton struggles to discover the truth over a four day period after an important client has a mental breakdown. The seemingly insane client manages to convince Michael to dig further and reveal the corruption within his law firm. The more truth Clayton uncovers, the deeper he digs himself into danger and the more demoralized he becomes about the work he’s done for most of his life.

George Clooney never fails to impress but usually he seems to play the same sly, well-spoken man as he does in the Ocean films. Not here though. Yes, he’s a slick talker but this is a man who is at his end. He’s broken, incapable of continuing with the life that he’s had and Clooney portrays his gradual downfall with brilliant subtlety. Tom Wilkinson deserves an oscar nomination. His supporting performance is real, fearless and mainly, seamless. Tilda Swinton also turns in a very brave performance, playing the role of a woman who is so self-conscious and so hopelessly concerned with success that, like Clayton, is also at her end. Extremely courageous performance.

Tony Gilroy, who is most widely known for his work on the Bourne movies, emerges with an exceptional directorial debut and reveals a commanding presence behind not only a typewriter but the camera. Every performance is keenly focused and the script is so competently written that each scene only builds on top of the next, making the climax that much more rewarding.

Despite my ravings, like every film, it isn’t without its flaws. The pacing lags for a brief section of the movie and the beginning of the film is particularly confusing. Be patient though. Initially it’s difficult to sink in to the film’s groove but once you do, it won’t let you go. Keep in mind, the film is dialogue-filled, so those expecting some kind of slam bang thriller will not receive it. This is an intelligent, character-driven suspense picture and one of the better films of the year.

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