Michael Clayton the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy is not your typical legal thriller, it falls more in the visceral thriller movies like “Network” and “Constant Gardener”. The film manages to grab our attention immediately and without the normal recipe for a thriller movie. Michael Clayton isn’t a revelatory film, but it is a smart one that deals in
the grey world that we all live in, not the black and white one legal film are usually about.
The movie starts off with a fantastic monologue from Tom Wilkinson, some unexplained shots of characters in a degree of stress and an explosion to cap it all off, your attention is gripped. Michael Clayton (George Clooney), a "fixer" at a major Manhattan law firm. His job profile is that of cleaning up other’s messes, not litigating
in a court room, He calls himself a “Janitor”. Things are not looking good for him right now : his addict brother has run a business venture that Michael was a partner in into the ground, leaving Michael with thousands of dollars in debt; his relationship with his ex-wife is on the rocks, He hates the work, but the senior partner at the firm, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), wants him to stay and assigns Michael to restrain Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), who is a lead attorney for a major case for the firm involving U/North, a huge, multifaceted corporation, has discovered startling evidence and begins plotting to publicly expose U/North, something that U/North’s lead corporate attorney, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) cannot allow and begins looking at far more dangerous methods of containment. This is all I can say without spoiling the movie.
Michael Clayton is a thriller that works at a slower pace, but still manages to enthrall with its developments. Critical to the film’s success is its performances. George Clooney gives us a Michael who feels many aspects of his world closing around him and tries to keep all the balls in the air. Finally, Tilda Swinton’s Karen Crowder is a woman who is all about appearance and ensuring that no one rocks the boat of U/North. She has sold her soul to the devil and will do anything to keep the company intact.
For me, the one actor in this movie who comes close to a scene-stealing performance is Tom Wilkinson, who does a fantastic job at delivering Gilroy’s sharply-written
and very particular dialogue while portraying his character’s bi-polar disorder.
Michael Clayton is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires a strong attention span and does not spoon-feed the audience. If you can handle that, then it is a film experience that will provide some rewards