After a week of roaming aimlessly in a camper-van through Australia's bewitching "red centre", I am back with this week's movie review and top ten list. The hiatus was good, and the escape from Sydney's hustle and bustle was quite refreshing. But, it's now back to work and school and responsibility. As such, I haven't had a chance to venture to a cinema to sample the latest cinematic delights. The film reviewed tonight is Michael Clayton which is available to rent on DVD, and "the list" is Top Ten Hollywood Musicals. I hope you all enjoy, and have a great week!
Top Ten Hollywood Musicals
1. Singin' in the Rain
2. Top Hat
3. Mary Poppins
4. The Sound of Music
5. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
6. An American in Paris
8. The Court Jester
9. Fiddler on the Roof
10. Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann)
"And The Truth Shall Set You Free"
- by Dallas
Michael Clayton, written and directed by Tony Gilroy and starring George Clooney as the titular character, tells the story of Michael Clayton, the in-house "fixer" working at the powerful New York law firm of Kenner, Bach and Ledeen. Clayton is shown in several scenes deftly using his skills of persuasion and negotiation with his myriad contacts to try and "fix" the various problems of some of his firm's high priority clients. He is able to arrange access to an "Authorized Personnel Only" crime scene as easily as scoring court-side tickets to the biggest game of the year. But, Clayton's most difficult challenge will come in the form of Arthur Edens, a senior attorney with Kenner, Bach and Ledeen who stops taking his medication and begins to sabotage his own work on the $3 billion lawsuit he's been working on for six years for the major agro-chemicals conglomerate U-North. What follows is a tautly constructed thriller that examines truth in the face of perspective, as the characters in this film each struggle with adhering to their own shifting moralities.
At the center of this exquisite gem of a film, is George Clooney's portrayal of Michael Clayton. Clooney plays Clayton as a man perpetually on the fringes of losing control of his life and his family. He appears the cool and collective fixer to his colleagues, but his gambling debts and penchant for alcohol have left him in search of a moral core. In the past he has used his work as a way to fill this void, but in his efforts to "contain" Arthur Edens he loses his moral grounding completely and is confronted with the question of "What is the right thing to do?"
Clayton's outward calm and inner turmoil is offset by Karen Crowder, a litigator under the employ of U-North who finds herself more and more discomfited by the actions of Arthur Edens. Played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton (she won the 2007 Best Supporting Actress Oscar), Crowder slowly loses control of everything around her, with devastating results, and the audience literally watches her implode on screen. Tom Wilkinson, also brilliant, plays Arthur Edens, the man responsible for the crises of so many individuals.
Michael Clayton begins like a good John Grisham "legal thriller", but as the film progresses little touches of greatness are manifest. One such moment comes in the murder of one of the characters. It is not a loud, gory, or bloody display of violence. It is quick, easy, silent; and it is one of the most disquieting and terrifying acts of violence I've ever seen on screen.
In a world of shifting values, where we sometimes find ourselves being swept away by forces out of our control, there will come a day when most, if not all of us will be forced to stand for something. When that day comes, will we be strong enough to do what's right? When that day comes, will we know what's right? Will there be a right and a wrong, or just choices and consequences? Similar questions were also posed by the excellent film Gone Baby Gone. Both films display the ugly consequences of our choices, both "right" and "wrong". My only criticism of Michael Clayton would be in its conclusion. I will not spoil the film by divulging it here, but it is enough to say that although I found the conclusion immensely satisfying, at the same time it felt hollow and a bit false. I mention Gone Baby Bone because one of the great triumphs of that film was in its honest and shattering conclusion.
My reservations about the conclusion aside, Michael Clayton is a superb film and I recommend it highly to anyone in the mood for a great film.