Opening 28 Feb 2008
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) works for a high-flying corporate law office whose clients are worth millions. That platinum profile and that much money often derive from illegal sources, and this group is no exception. However, these suave, well-dressed inhabitants of fancy offices often need thugs or a nice guy to mop up the messes. Both are in this film and Michael Clayton is the latter. His private life is in disarray: he has huge debts after buying a bar, he gambles, he has a child but no wife, and he argues with his brothers. He reminds me of Detective Colombo or Bruce Willis as John McClaine in the Die Hard series. However, Michael Clayton plays the fool for just so long, i.e., until his car explodes and his good friend Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies. That’s the limit, and Michael begins to fight back with an unexpected cunning. He discovers that Arthur was representing a very exploitative company which was cheating poor farmers. Arthur changed sides, began to work for the underdogs, and so he had to die.
Tony Gilroy is writer and director. In book form, this would be a typical airport book: a bit of action, a bit of intrigue, but not considered good literature. (Gilroy also wrote the Bourne
series.) As a film, it works well, simply because George Clooney is an excellent actor, well chosen for the role. Tilde Swinton is great as Karen Crowder, a Cruella DeVil type, who thinks she can keep the apple cart afloat through sheer will and determination. The film works its way forward through flashbacks, which can be confusing as many characters pop up and disappear, only to be explained later. It seems to go slowly, but picks up enough speed in the end when all is sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction. This is entertaining enough for an evening out; you won’t be disappointed. (Becky Tan)