Thursday, August 28, 2008

Michael Clayton (2007)

By: Abel Lin

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“Is that, ‘Okay, you understand,’ or ‘Okay, proceed’”? – Mr. Verne.

If you looked up “mature legal thriller” in a dictionary, Michael Clayton would just throw the damn book at you. It has the makings of greatness. Indeed, if it weren’t for such a difficult run at last year’s Oscars with films like The Departed, it might have actually nabbed a few more of its seven Oscar nominations. But I digress.

A fixer. A brilliant but manic-depressive attorney. A prestigious NY firm. An agro-firm corporate. A lead counsel with some dirty handlers. Organized crime. Asian poker houses. This laundry list may seem Hollywood, but after seeing this film, I couldn’t but think, “Skittles, this could have happened in real life.” ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

The pace of the film is a bit slower, but deliberate. Tim Gilroy directs with a firm hand that makes the action scenes even more visceral because of the okay-okay-OH-SNAP!-okay movement of the story. Clayton takes you in slowly in the workings of the characters with their flaws, and a grisly power struggle glossed with Mercedes cars & power ties. It’s a tale of corporate survival vs. the human life. The ending is pretty, freaking smart too. Even if that sentence wasn’t.

What I was most impressed with it all was when I gave Clayton the hairy eyeball, I couldn’t find fault in anything. ANY. THING. The details, side characters, the unresolved little pieces of the story; everything was tied together in a neat, little film that has epic intentions. And it begins with a man named Michael Clayton.

Bottom line: Tightly woven story, compelling characters, and frighteningly realistic. Clooney, Wilkinson, and Swinton give an outstanding performance. Top 5 film for 2007.


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