Thursday, December 30, 2010

MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007) - Legal drama? Awesome? You bet.

I was a bit hesitant over whether I should review this movie here or not. I told myself when starting this blog that it would be dedicated to manly (that is to say, mindless) action movies and the like. I decided I would go through with it after all because in the end, Michael Clayton is a pretty slick movie, and although George Clooney doesn't do much womanizing, shooting or throw out one liners, it was an very enjoyable flick that had some great moments.

In one of the best openings for a movie in a while, manic depressive trial laywer Arthur Edens (a fantastic Tom Wilkinson) goes on a wild rant about a case he's been working for. I won't spoil any of it, but let me just say his snarling delivery is great and I felt like putting down my delicious ham and cheese sammich and just giving the guy an ovation. I added a link at the bottom of the review if you want to check it out. Anyways,  Edens is on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and is confessing confidential information about a huge class  action lawsuit that could cost his client and his bosses billions of dollars. He is confessing to Michael Clayton (George Clooney), who works for the same firm as Edens as a "fixer" - the go-to guy when there is a legally dubious problem to be solved as soon as possible and with no questions asked.

Edens (Wilkinson) is crazy. Or is he? Clayton (Clooney) has to figure out what the hell is going on.
The movie then rewinds back to a few days earlier. We learn that Edens is defending U-North, a multinational agricultural company in a controversial case dealing with deadly pesticides. Edens has a crisis of conscience, and strips naked in the middle of a videotaped deposition, and threatens to go public with information that could lose the case for U-North and embarrass his law firm bosses. The law firm sends Clayton to meet with Edens and try to defuse the situation before he does any more damage to their case. At the same time, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), who is general counsel for U-North, realizes it will be her ass on the line if Edens ruins the case, and orders two shady guys to start following Edens.

Tilda Swinton as the desperate big wig out to save her job at all costs.
Things soon spiral out of control, as Clayton battles his gambling debts and his attempts to convince Edens to shut his damn mouth, while Edens escapes from custody, and Karen Crowder becomes increasingly desperate and dangerous with her decisions on how to deal with Edens and Clayton. The high stakes have every person on edge. Tension? Intrigue? Murder? Car bombs? Big companies doing bad things? Yeeeeah, you know it.

Look at that suave bastard. Not the kind of guy you'd want to piss off.
I can't have enough praise for Tom Wilkinson. He has far less time on screen compared to Clooney, but he eats up every minute of it. He is a beast with his material, and it was absolutely no surprise he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year. Wilkinson is usually good in anything he does, but he's in top form here. Clooney turns in a good performance as well, and Swinton is great to watch as well, as we see her confidence slowly implode and her desperation leads her to make very dangerous decisions. In a movie that relies so much on dialogue instead of physical action, the cast has to be excellent, and in this case, it is.

Michael Clayton is a dark, grimy legal drama, that despite its serious subject matter is a thrill ride in disguise. There's more to it than you'd expect, especially in the last half hour as all of the loose ends fall into place and the adrenaline starts flowing, leading up to a very cool finale. I'm usually lukewarm when it comes to legal dramas, but this is one of the best of the type ever made. Very satisfying. Give it a chance even if you're not a fan of the genre.

TL;DR - Clooney and Wilkinson deal with shady corporations and do a hell of a job - 8.5/10


  1. i stopped reading the post halfway only because after having read a bit of it, i'm interested in checking out this film.

  2. This looks a lot like the new Matthew McConaughey flick that's coming out. I do love me some George Clooney though.

  3. I remember really liking this movie when it came out.

  4. Sounds alright, but I got to say, if I want to watch a legal lawyer type movie I would watch Law abiding citizen. :)