2007 – Tony Gilroy
Rated R: 119 minutes
Vault Rating: 7
We, here in the vault, love George Clooney. He represents to us the last of the true Hollywood actors in the mold of Clark Gable, Carey Grant and Jimmy Stewart and so many other tried and true, dependable cinematic leads.
Today’s consideration is the Oscar winning “Michael Clayton” where an impeccable scri pt sheds a better light on the usual Grisham style crap about lawyers.
Clooney’s Michael Clayton is a legal mind that has marinated into the very important role of fixer for a huge law firm. Some refer to him as a miracle worker but he considers himself more of a janitor. Whatever the nomenclature, Clayton tidies up after others.
“Michael Clayton” is first a well rounded, old fashioned character study and second, in this corner anyway, a drama/thriller. No more charismatic lead would be possible, at least until Clooney Jr. comes along.
Perfectly, his character is placed for examination at a moral crossroads when his services become necessary to ensure the failure of a multi-billion dollar product liability suit. When the senior litigating partner, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), strips naked and declares his love for the victims, Clayton is sent to reign him in and save the day.
The setup leaves us guessing as to Clayton’s moral bent, but it suggests his firm is, at best, amoral. Even more so is Karen Crowder, the corporate mouthpiece of a company called UNorth, whose weed-killer, we find, kills more than just weeds.
Tilda Swinton (Best Supporting Actress) has perfected this kind of ice queen and pulls off the role of corporate flack with a stress-kitten appeal that is truly gut-wrenching. Her Karen Crowder is a decidedly vile individual who is, we’re convinced, representative of the kind of loathsome individual that lives in the greasy wheels of commerce.
Arthur, on the other hand, has seen the light and is trying for once to do something morally valuable. We hear him in exalted voice-over at the outset of the film. His ramblings, presented out of context over what we later identify as a climactic scene, seem mad at first, but logical upon review.
The way the film backtracks is a key element in its composition, showing a sequence at the beginning and then backfilling plot points to give the same scene significance at the conclusion. It is expertly done here and rewards a second viewing.
Many of the spies have had difficulty following the movie, but found it worthwhile nonetheless. If you keep in mind the structure above, you’ll have an easier time with it and still get all the goodies.
In a side note, we’d like to recognize that “Michael Clayton” is a move you have to be involved with. You’ve got to pay attention and it is rewarding to listen to the dialogue. In effect, you have to work a little to enjoy it. Sometimes it is impossible to create tension when you are duty bound to spell everything out for the viewer. This film expects you to be a little more on the ball and we welcome more of this sort.
Subplots in the film give Clayton mooring in a law enforcement family and in problems like various kinds of addiction. The character is thus portrayed very fully and lends very much to the way the drama plays out. The decisions Clayton makes are fair and believable given the lay of his internal world and Clooney’s portrayal is perfect.
In fact, the film lingers in the imagination – what we refer to as a “good aftertaste” here in the vault – and leaves us wondering if we haven’t short-changed the movie with a vault rating of 7.
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Loads of good video for your consideration these days. We just took in Sean Penn’s biopic “Into the Wild” which documents the true-life story of Chris McCandless, who chose the life of a tramp and eventually sought the comforts of solitary life in Alaska. Truly gripping film, highly recommended.
Denzel Washington appears in a worthy turn in “American Gangster,” which plays out much like Johnny Depp’s turn in “Blow” back in 2001. Denzel creates a drug trade that capitalizes on the Vietnam war and rockets him to wealth. This is no “Scarface” or “Goodfellas” by any stretch, but it is a good film of its kind.
Best Actress this year was won by Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose,” the bittersweet story of the famed French songbird, Edith Piaf, who rose from the gutters to stardom. The story might be a bit highbrow for the average, but for a refined taste and for a master class in acting, it should not be missed.
We have tried twice now without success to get through “Across the Universe,” the musical whirlwind of Beatles video. While each segment is fascinating and Jim Sturgess is a treat, we regret to inform that we’ve just not had the time to finish. It helps to have a big screen with a decent sound system, we’re just not sure if there’s a point in all this. Fans of the music and the peace & love generation will very much appreciate it, though. It plays like a beautiful painting set to vibrant motion. Almost every frame is pretty to look at.
And digging back a ways, we’ve recently had the unmistakable pleasure of the 2005 Aussie Western, “The Proposition.” We’re excited about director John Hillcoat’s selection to head the upcoming film, “The Road.” Author Cormac McCarthy’s novel is one of the most powerful and chilling we’ve ever read. “The Proposition” gives us hope that the project is in very capable hands. If the film lives up to the towering novel, it should make our top 24 all time. That, friends, is a high expectation. The only thing left is for us to walk “The Road” without flinching.
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We still rot our brains on American Idol. The empty talking points are that this season’s is the best talent so to date and we say bollocks to that. We suspect they are really saying that the ratings are slowly starting to dip. Never mind all of that and walk with us a second. We watched David Cook on Tuesday as he utterly pancaked the rest of the field with Chris Cornell’s smoking gun version of “Billie Jean.” Okay, you can stop laughing at the thought of a smoking version of “Billie Jean:” We get the contradiction. Still, Cook improved on Cornell’s version to the point that he’s probably got an Alt-Rock chart hit on his hands.
So, until this election season FINALLY ends… Enjoy!