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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.43%
Average: 25.37%
Pretty Bad: 7.46%
Total Crap: 2.99%

6 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Michael Clayton
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by brianorndorf

"George Clooney in the best role of his career"
5 stars

Now here’s a picture perfect for those who bemoan the lack of quality coming out of Hollywood, or, at the very least, assume a dearth of intelligence. “Michael Clayton” is an assuredly dense, thematically sticky piece of thrillerdom, piloted by complicated psychological impulses, not convention. It’s another stab by George Clooney to bring back a little old fashioned character ambiguity to the big screen, and it’s his most successful effort yet.

Michael Clayton (Clooney) is a “janitor,” a person brought in by his law firm to clean up messes that can’t demand the time of a proper legal team. When a protracted lawsuit against a billion-dollar chemical corporation is tripped up by the mental instability of the primary attorney (Tim Wilkinson), Michael is called in to contain the fallout. Once inside the case, Michael’s eyes are opened by a multitude of inconsistencies and damaging secrets, putting his own life in jeopardy as he investigates how far the deception leads.

For better (the “Bourne Identity” trilogy) or for worse (“Bait,” “The Devil’s Advocate”) writer Tony Gilroy has survived the business long enough to earn his stars as a director. “Clayton” is an incredible debut for the screenwriter, pulling together a pointed, intelligent legal thriller that isn’t quite a legal thriller at all. Gilroy has molded an impassion character study of morally queasy individuals, in a film that handles like a sleek suspense creation custom fitted for mass audiences with a supreme level of patience.

What’s so admirable about “Clayton” is that it remains such a moody effort from start to finish. This is a dark film infested with lowlife characters, but Gilroy is infatuated with their choices when shoved up against a wall. The story has little time for heroes and villains, instead conveying the richness of uncertainty, where right and wrong buttress an instinctive hunger for survival. For Clayton and the lawyer characters that line the film (portrayed by Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack), justice is almost never a consideration. It’s almost as though any proper edict seen to conclusion is only randomly uncovered by routine selfishness, not a sense of moral duty. Gilroy loves to live in these tight spaces, and that’s where “Clayton” finds the juiciest bits of drama and legal interaction.

The rest of the film belongs to Clooney, not only because he’s one of the finest actors of his generation, but because he’s willing to tap dance on the brittle lines of sympathy. Clayton is no hero and Clooney is enamored of that vulnerability; that tunnel vision of self that’s neutered his relationship with his son, helped him tinker with a gambling habit, and prompted him to plan a doomed escape route with a failed real estate dream. Clooney nails every scene, slipping inside the character’s self-loathing and bewilderment with this new set of vocational circumstances. It’s played with a deft touch few actors even bother to learn, much less execute with a solemn grace the way Clooney can. Hate the rest of the film, but I can’t imagine anyone stepping outside of the theater and thinking Clooney’s monumental work lacks absolute fire.

Gilroy isn’t completely comfortable making “Clayton” a blistering insular experience, massaging at least two moments of fragrance-heavy audience-pleasing moments and one enormous logic leap. Still, those are small concerns in a film that is this superbly crafted and brave enough to portray fallible characters without an insulting need to turn them into angels.

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originally posted: 10/12/07 15:13:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/26/14 virginia Never get tired of this American masterpiece. 5 stars
5/31/11 Monday Morning FYI, Roger Ebert did a great follow-up on this film dated 5/29/11. Check it out. 5 stars
12/05/10 fmc Are you what you do? Thats what Clooney wrestles with. Wonderful film. 5 stars
9/11/10 Monday Morning Better Hitchcock than Hitchcock. 5 stars
1/21/10 Stanley Thai An engrossing thriller that has brains. The cast is wonderful! 4 stars
10/01/09 Roy DeMeo Horrible- Kept watching hoping something would change. Too many sub-plots VERY CONFUSING 2 stars
3/06/09 MP Bartley Nothing remotely new, but the acting keeps it chugging along. 4 stars
2/23/09 mr.mike Uninteresting and repetitive. Clooney is awful. 2 stars
10/27/08 Michael M Unsuspensful at times, with plotlines that added nothing. Final scene is very satisfying. 3 stars
6/07/08 R.W. Welch Well plotted corporate skullduggery stuff. Solid cast. 4 stars
5/04/08 L. Hansen Incredible film. You describe every bit eloquently, Peter. Thanks. 5 stars
4/05/08 Arcane So serious its boring. Crap 1 stars
4/05/08 Wilbur Most boring Action film ever! only ONE explosion! 1 stars
3/26/08 Brad Pitt I should have gotten the lead. Then I could bang Angie in my trailer. 4 stars
3/17/08 hatrip A well made corporate film that absorbs, but lacks something in it's execution 3 stars
3/13/08 Jefenator Well-written, well-acted. Very satisfying thriller! 5 stars
3/03/08 ladavies Pretty good movie there George. 4 stars
11/25/07 martha very well acted, written & directed.Recommend this movie to all. 5 stars
11/08/07 Zigurrat Decent Film, but the idea that anyone would kill to protect a corporate job is unbelievable 4 stars
11/05/07 Jim Duca Boring and predictable. Erin Brockavich in pants, 2 stars
10/23/07 Ole Man Bourbon George Clooney is anything but unpretentious. Entertaining movie, though. 4 stars
10/21/07 Ethan Good acting, but a slow moving storyline. 3 stars
10/17/07 Elizabeth Wonderfully acted, too pat an ending. 4 stars
10/16/07 Meta Baron A half decent made for TV movie but not much more. Predictable too. 3 stars
10/16/07 anon.. not as good as people say 3 stars
10/16/07 George Lee Well-acted tedium. 2 stars
10/15/07 Martha Lynne Utterly gripping and satisying. Clooney could not be better. 5 stars
10/14/07 Zeke Argo Shallow characters and pacing is laborious at best. Not worth the hype or the time. 2 stars
10/14/07 Monday Morning This is a superb story that has you thinking every minute. Beautifully made, too. 5 stars
10/14/07 Richard Loeffler Good but not as great as most reviews would have it. 4 stars
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  05-Oct-2007 (R)
  DVD: 19-Feb-2008

  28-Sep-2007 (15)

  18-Oct-2007 (MA)

Directed by
  Tony Gilroy

Written by
  Tony Gilroy

  George Clooney
  Tom Wilkinson
  Tilda Swinton
  Sydney Pollack
  Michael O'Keefe
  Ken Howard

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