Michael Clayton (2007) (R)
Michael Clayton is a man whose life is on hold. He hangs in the balance, between titles, jobs, work, and family. It's impossible for him to grasp his identity because it's always shifting. He jumps from here to there and eventually, we get an overdone and sentimental version of "The Fugitive"...which was better with Harrison Ford.
The movie's beginning is absolutely terrific, is begins with quick edits, fast-paced music, and a great voiced over tantrum/narration given by a man whose clearly reached the edge of his sanity.
Enter Michael Clayton (George Clooney) the 'fixer' of a law firm who some times can get in far too deep. We never are given a crystal clear definition of what Michael does, but it's clear that whatever it is, it is slowly sapping his life force.
When an attorney goes completely crazy and strips down naked during a deposition, the lives of three will intertwine.
Michael is already accounted for, his unnecessary backstory and kid problems are brought into the picture. We have him being the best at his work—he always manages to find some loop hole or know some cop to squeeze whoever he needs out of a tight situation; but we also have his depressing family ties slowly dragging him down. Near the end of the film, we get a haunting shot riddled with symbolism that shows Michael slowly descending down an escalator to a lower level of a building, darker and more mysterious. Perhaps that's all the film is about, a man who is is trying to ward off the building pressures around him before it all swoops in and crushes him to death. Then again...I'm getting ahead of myself.
The second character is the naked attorney, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson). This man is a train wreck of a soul, an emotionally unstable, mentally unbalanced man teetering on the edge of complete psychosis. He has uncovered a large secret while dealing with an agricultural company...and this secret is worth killing for.
Lastly, we have Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton in an Oscar winning role), the head of the agriculture company and a ruthless woman with no moral code. She has a job to do and she will do it in whatever way she sees fit.
For a movie that is about the interaction of these characters, they rarely share any screen time with each other—always one step behind, one step ahead, and in search of the other. They each leave wakes that can be traced and each of them has a huge part of the story to tell.
But let's be honest, for a movie called "Michael Clayton" I found that I didn't give a hoot about the main character. The parts without Mr. Clayton on screen were far more interesting than those with him on it. George Clooney does a good job, because I feel like he was true to the script...and since the director and writer are the same person (Tony Gilroy) this would make sense.
There is a great doom in "Michael Clayton" that is impossible to escape. The title character is moody and flawed, and I would have preferred to see a shallow character who takes more risks. I would have liked more action, more suspense, less time spent with horses...and less of the incessant need for anti-climaxes. Because of the switches in points of view and the time jumps, there are only a few moments that create actual suspense...and in the moments that do, I find myself cheering for the villains.
It is incredibly well-made, well-acted, and well-directed; but I felt a disconnect from "Michael Clayton" and I can't understand why. Perhaps it was the "Drive"-like way it lengthened scenes, or the retribution that could be spotted a mile away—I think it all boils down to a character that I couldn't sympathize with because he was too darn damaged. It's the kind of movie that's been done better before and after.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones