Plot: Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house fixer for a law firm. He takes care of the dirty work for Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, one of the largest corporate firms in New York. He’s unhappy with his job, his divorce and a failed business venture with his brother. But now, he has to focus on dealing with the brilliant Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) who goes off the deep end with a case that could jeopardize more than Michael’s job.
Who’s it for: This is an adult drama that has confusing storylines, unanswered questions, but most of all, quality suspense.
Expectations: I saw this movie back in August and when I sat down, I couldn’t remember the name of it. In fact, I saw no previews and almost forgot George Clooney was in it. That’s exactly how I like going into films.
George Clooney as Michael Clayton: Brilliant. This is the first performance of 2007 that I loved and thought Academy Award voters also would love. During the first two-thirds of the film, I really didn’t know exactly what was going on. But I couldn’t take my eyes off the journey and that was mainly because of Clooney. Michael has more layers than most characters and his family life is a more personal, realistic struggle.
Tom Wilkinson as Arthur Edens: The film starts with an amazing voice-over by Wilkinson and that’s just the beginning. Arthur is the type of lawyer who speaks the truth and we want more of him … except for the crazy part where he gets naked outside the courthouse.
Tilda Swinton as Karen Crowder: Karen is desperate and nervous to hold on to power for U/North, the large company the law firm is working for. It’s nerve-racking watching her practice speeches or sweat in the restroom stall. It’s a brilliant portrayal of someone in over her head.
Talking: OK, I’ve talked about how I was confused. It’s obvious that’s what they were going for, but maybe they pushed it just a touch too far.
Sights and sounds: There is an intense, uneasy score playing throughout most of the film that ensures there will be tension even when they are just discussing legalize. Plus, when an explosion happens and then we are brought to “four days earlier …” we’re stuck with curiosity until the truth is revealed.
Best Scene: Michael and his son just got done seeing Michael’s messed-up brother, Timmy. He pulls the car over and has a heart to heart with his son. It’s something every kid needs to hear when there are degenerates in the family and it just barely beats out the ending of this film.
Ending: Michael saves his best moment until the end, when he is finally tired of the insults and speaks his mind to Karen.
Random Thoughts: Michael Clayton and Danny Ocean … it’s hard not to make the comparison when Clooney’s character starts off playing poker in a nice suit.
Rewatchability: The first time I saw this film was in August, and it won’t be the last time I see it in the theater. It’s the first drama worth seeing twice this year.
It’s called “Michael Clayton” because even if the plot might be difficult to follow, it’s all about the journey of George Clooney’s character. At first, it looks like we’d be watching a down-and-out Danny Ocean trying to get his life together, but “Michael Clayton” quickly becomes much more. A killer voice-over by Tom Wilkinson sets the tone for this dramatic thriller, and you’re willing to go on the journey even if you don’t understand it all the time. Every actor is at the top of his or her game, and first-time director Tony Gilroy has made the first film of 2007 that has really got me thinking about the Oscars.
Overall Grade: 10