MICHAEL CLAYTON (A Movie Review)
There are only so many ways to tackle the evil corporate polluter on film and I’m getting convinced that they’ve all been utilized. Here George Clooney works as a “fixer” for a law firm and we learn through the course of the movie he was once a solid litigator, but the head of the firm, Sydney Pollack, saw his genius in another capacity and that’s his current role. A key deficiency is that we don’t really see him fix anything. And what we see him do doesn’t seem like any particular talent that would require a litigator when a paralegal or a PI could do the same job.
George Clooney is a charming actor, but it’s becoming clear he has two screen personas, the semi-rouge with a charming gleam in his eye and the same guy without the gleam. I can see how his oafish performance delighted the Academy in the ridiculous and boring SYRIANA, but in Michael Clayton he doesn’t even lose his finger nails. It’s just Clooney being Clooney. Tilda Swinton seems like a fine actress herself, but her nomination and win is just as equally baffling. Her role is pivotal to the plot, but her actual screen presence is minimal and not particularly dynamic. Further working against their nominations is the stellar work on the under-hyped Tom Wilkinson, that trudges along movie after movie bringing something unique and thoughtful nearly every time.
What seems to set Michael Clayton apart from other films of its kind is staging. This world has a sort of bleak tone where no one ever has much to smile about despite the fact that nearly every character on both sides of the big case is living well.
Without ruining the plot, I’ll say there are a couple of nefarious acts late in the picture and if you think about their plausibility it’s hard to take the total film seriously. I still enjoyed it enough. I would say that it succeeds in ways that other films of this sub-genre do not. But it’s hardly groundbreaking or worthy of a Best Picture nod.