Saturday, October 13, 2007

Michael Clayton

I took a breather tonight and went to the movie theatre. I wanted to see Elizabeth but thought I should watch the first one again before I jumped into that.

I'd vaguely recalled something about Michael Clayton and so I went and saw that when I saw it was playing at roughly the same time I arrived at the theatre.

I hadn't seen a trailer for the film, I didn't know who was in it (besides Clooney) and I had no idea what it was about. I don't often enter a theatre to watch a film that naked, as it were. To be honest, I wish I was able to do this with more films.

But anyhow, onto the film. Michael Clayton is the name of the title character played expertly by Clooney. It had initially taken me a while to really dig Clooney as an actor. I thought he'd helped ruin Batman and for a while there was a lot of bad blood. I came to decide, after Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? that it was still probably just Schumachers fault and I'd give Clooney a pass on it. (To this day, I refuse to watch Shumacher movies. Period. It doesn't matter how good they might look, his treatment of Batman has made him persona non grata to me.) So, I've warmed up to Clooney considerably and after watching Michael Clayton I would say that he's one of the best actors out there working today. No lie.

I'm sure every review of this film, regardless of any negative feelings about the film, will praise the cast for being flawless and that reputation is deserved. Watching Tom Wilkinson and George Clooney (Tilda Swinton, too) just let loose and act was something that I wouldn't have wanted to pass up. This is an acting piece. It truly is.

I would argue that all of the best thrillers are acting pieces. Michael Clayton is a competent, generally well put together thriller. But the thing that passes it from a run of the mill thriller to something worth checking out are the performances.

I truly can't talk enough about how much I like Tom Wilkinson's work in this movie. If anybody came close to showing up Clooney in this film, it was certainly Wilkinson.

The film addresses issues about corporate crime and the lawyers that defend corporate criminals but that almost takes a back seat to the moral dilemmas the characters go through. It's good to see that sort of thing in an arena of popular art, but it's not enough to make anybody pissed off enough about an issue to do anything about it. (Syriana for instance. Remember how great that movie was?)

My only complaint about this film was that the structure was chopped up in a way that felt as though the filmmakers felt a desire to talk down to the sort of audience this film would attract. The act two climax is played out in an abridged form at the beginning of the film and it feels not only unnecessary but oddly patronizing. It felt as though either the filmmakers or the studio decided that there needed to be an explosion in the first reel or audiences would be bored to tears with all of the talking and acting going on. This couldn't be further from the truth, they just didn't have enough faith in us.

But since they blow their load on the climax at the beginning, it's barely half as effective as it should be.

I was still into the movie, but had I been sitting on the fence about it, this would have been a deal breaker.

Anyhow, this film was an interesting experience. I wouldn't recomend it to everybody. Or even anybody. If you like watching acting craftsman like Clooney and Wilkinson and Swinton and Sydney Pollack at work though, you'd do worse than to watch this film.

On a 1-10, I'd have to say a 6 or a 7.

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