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Michael Clayton
Genre Thriller
Year: 2008
 
Review:
An attorney gets caught up in a major class action lawsuit that could very well be his last, but

Michael Clayton isn’t an ordinary legal drama and thriller. There aren’t any court room drama scenes, there aren’t any jury back room scenes and the film tends to focus on motive and emotion. The narrative structure isn’t chronological, but slowly feeds the rope until you hit the anchor. This film garnered several Oscar nominations including: best lead actor in George Clooney, best supporting actor in Tom Wilkinson, best achievement in direction/writing for Tony Gilroy, best picture and Tilda Swinton won an Oscar for best supporting actress. Michael Clayton is the Michael Moore of thrillers and takes corporate business head-on. Over the last few decades, big business in the United States has been accused of malpractice and unethical decision-making again and again. Making a profit has become more important than sustaining a market and this film plants itself right in the middle with Michael Clayton as the ‘Fixer’. He’s put onto a case that is on the brink of being thrown out, after staggering for 6 years. Clayton is the janitor and has to mop up a mess that could easily spiral out of control. His job isn’t that simple and his own personal circumstances start to rally for his attention as he juggles with his life.

The Oscar nominations testify to brilliant performances from the leads in Michael Clayton. The characters are rich and subtle with distinct personalities and hidden agendas. Each performance is cutting and establishes taut interpersonal relationships. The narrative style is quite complex at first and there’s no spoonfeeding involved. This vantage point gives the audience a similar mindset to Michael Clayton, who is trying to create a broader understanding of the monumental case. Tony Gilroy allows the crosshair to balance on a variety of genres, while maintaining the suspense. Misinformation and cover ups distract as each character represents a different party. The majority of the film sees Clayton suspended between Arthur Edens (Wilkinson) and Karen Crowder (Swinton). His legal advice and ‘Fixer’ job description soon make way for some amateur detective work as he becomes entangled. Michael Clayton is more art house than commerical and is beautifully constructed by Tony Gilroy. The writing and characterisation is key to the success of Michael Clayton and it delivers on all fronts. Three Oscar-winning Directors, Sydney Pollack, Steven Soderbergh and Anthony Minghella served as producers to Michael Clayton. This is testament to the quality of this film.

The bottom line: Excellent.

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