Friday, December 5, 2008

MICHAEL CLAYTON (Tony Gilroy, 2007, USA) Screenwriter Tony Gilroy has written some very stupid movies so your humble reviewer approached this, Gilroy's first directorial effort, with trepidation: I was pleasantly surprised. This is a tightly wound screenplay that leads to an inevitable confrontation with very few loose strings or secondary plot developments. Though Gilroy's lazy plot utilizes every Legal Thriller genre cliché, he smartly decides instead to delve deeper into the characters and their morally profound conflicts. It works because George Clooney is able to portray Clayton with a subtle dishonesty that leaves a bad taste in his mouth; we can see the internal struggle as the plot thickens. The key scene to Clayton's character is when he is trying to articulate to his son that he (the son) will not grow up like his drug addled father (Clayton's brother) and Clooney is able to externalize the epiphany of sudden realization that he is talking about himself. Tom Wilkinson is believably idiosyncratic as the attorney who loses his mind but gains back his soul, and it's his performance that acts as the pivot for the film's climax. Thankfully, Gilroy doesn't subscribe to the Spielberg method of filmmaking and layer the drama with a thick mucous of musical manipulation: he lets the actors carry the emotional burden. Sometimes Hollywood makes a decent movie but I'm sure we can soon expect idiocy: how about MICHAEL CLAYTON meets ERIN BROCKOVICH? (B-)

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