Review: Michael Clayton

George Clooney plays the smooth-talking (but not miracle working), title character, a ‘fixer’ (or trouble-shooter) for Sydney Pollack’s law firm, despite having a lot of problems of his own. He’s gone through a divorce, has an uneasy relationship with his kid, and is a gambler seriously in debt after a failed business venture with his estranged brother. His best friend and co-worker Arthur (played by Tom Wilkinson- with many a frantically actor-y monologue, especially the hammy opening scene), meanwhile, is a bipolar sufferer who has gone off his medication, off the rails, and is attempting to sabotage a class action suit against one of the firm’s biggest clients, having either a crisis of conscience, a mental/emotional breakdown, or a natural reaction for a bipolar sufferer off his medication. Enter Tilda Swinton, lawyer (not a fixer) for the corporation in question (who are accused by farmers of polluting drinking water with cancer-causing chemicals), who will do anything it takes to stop Arthur and protect the company she works for (and has presumably sold her soul to), whilst Michael Clayton must clean the whole shitty mess up, he’s a man in desperate need of the cash, but probably at the cost of his very soul.

The title character played rather well by Oscar nominated Clooney is far more interesting than the film in which he inhabits. This 2007 Tony Gilroy (a writer who made his directorial debut here) legal drama/thriller contains a plot I’ve seen far too many times to care about. Again with the fucking contaminated water? Again with the self-serving corporations and law firms? Am I meant to be shocked by any of this? This shit was old whilst Reagan was still in the White House! It also presents it all in a pretty confusing manner, especially for people with short attention spans like me. I hope you like your flashbacks and jargon-heavy dialogue, folks. Oscar nominee Wilkinson’s extremely mannered scenes as a somewhat unbalanced but brilliant attorney, reminded me way too much of Jeffrey Tambor and Jack Warden in “And Justice for All”. Despite winning an Oscar, Swinton is merely playing a less self-assured (but more actor-y), version of the kind of evil corporate woman Faye Dunaway could’ve played in her sleep back in the 70s.

There’s nothing terribly new here, or especially interesting. But the scenes dealing with Clooney’s personal woes are a bit more interesting, if just as stale. Despite the tired nature of his role, actor-director producer Pollack walks off with the film. Really overrated stuff, all-round.

Rating: C+


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