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June 2010

Michael Clayton

cast: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Michael O'Keefe, Sydney Pollack, and Tilda Swinton

writer and director: Tony Gilroy

119 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Pathé blu-ray region B retail

RATING: 5/10
review by William N. Dyer

Michael Clayton

This is a film that brings out a range of responses. It's a lumbering behemoth that covers a specific four days in Michael Clayton's (George Clooney) troubled life. The film starts essentially 15 minutes from the end and explodes literally into a continuous flashback that is the bulk of the film. The ending is initially unexpected but on reflection is consistent with Michael Clayton's role in the story. He's a law firm's fixer, a lawyer who found a niche and turned out to be the best at it.

A class action lawsuit has been going on for eight years and the lead defence lawyer Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) stops taking his medication and appears to have a breakdown that could compromise the client's, a large chemical company, case who have been accused (as it turns out correctly) of knowingly selling pesticides the could kill the farmers and their families.

Michael Clayton is brought in to contain and clean up the situation. There are lots of characters brought on stage to enrich the atmosphere of the film. There's the chemical company's chief advocate who loses the plot and starts an escalating black op, that ends with one death and another attempted murder - that of Michael Clayton.

There's Clayton's family, his son and his two brothers the youngest of whom has got Michael involved in clearing his debt with load sharks. There's Michael's gambling problem. There the law firm's pending merger with a UK firm. And probably some other subplots I've missed.

This film feels very European in texture. It's well filmed with great photography. Sound is there but unobtrusive. It's not that suspenseful and it's not a thriller, nor is it a murder mystery as the viewer knows all that's going on. It's a piece of thought out atmosphere that might be entertaining to some folk and that entertainment might have been enhanced with some casting changes. In particular I'm not convinced by George Clooney's rendition of Michael Clayton. Maybe I've been drawn into stereotypical expectations of Clooney.

I'm not sure the film hits the spots hoped for. Some of the baddies get their comeuppance but others of dubious morals, including Michael Clayton, don't. So even on an emotional level there is a high degree of ambivalence. So if you're looking for an action packed thriller this is not for you but if you're into complexity with a hint of intrigue and lots of atmosphere then it might enrich two hours of your life.

Disc extras: deleted scenes, deleted scenes with commentary by Tony Gilroy and John Gilroy, and a theatrical trailer. Surprisingly, there have been no interactive features added to the blu-ray edition, so all you're going to get is improved picture quality for the extra cost.



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