It is a reasonably safe assumption that any movie starring George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton will be a watchable film. Despite the fact that the main driver of any movie, in my opinion, is the script, the screenplay and then the casting, these are a few actors who ensure that they make the most of the characterization given to them, and ensure that maybe even a mediocre movie becomes at least watchable. Given this, it must be said that Michael Clayton is anything but a mediocre script, and this coupled with the fact that the three names mentioned above have lent their performances to this movie makes it one of the must-watch movies of recent times. Warning for all the die-hard action flick fans, this movie relies purely on dialogs, dialogs and more dialogs. So please do bring your concentration caps along when you are watching this movie.
Michael Clayton the movie deals with the attempts of the protagonist to cope with a colleague’s apparent mental breakdown and the suit of a major client of his law firm being sued in a class action case involving toxic agrochemicals. The idea for this script stuck Director Writer Tony Gilroy when he was busy preparing his script for The Devil’s Advocate. He apparently came across various situations where there were goings-on in New York law firms that were much much more than what met the eye. He wanted to make a movie which tried to go behind the glass-walled façade that these high-end law firms presented to the world at large. Thus was born the idea of Michael Clayton, the story of a “fixer”, someone who dealt with and rectified difficult situations for law firms, not necessarily using traditional or conservative methods and protocols.
The movie begins with showing Clayton’s personal problems relating to his gambling problems and resultant debts owed by him. He then is called in by his law firm, Kenner, Bach & Ledeen to help out with a difficult situation involving his friend and colleague Arthur Edens (played wonderfully by Tom Wilkinson). As Clayton gets in to resolve the situation, he realizes that there is more than meets the eye to this particular class action suit.
Arthur is in possession of some United Northfield (U-North) classified documents which he is secretly using to build a case against U-North itself. This pretty much puts Clayton on a collision course with Karen Crowder, the General Counsel of U-North (Tilda Swinton’s Academy Award winning performance), who is pretty much willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that these documents don’t see the light of day, let alone be presented against the company in a court of law.
All of these situations pretty much end up complicating things further and further until they reach a point where Clayton has to utilize pretty much all of his tact, skill and competence to keep out of trouble and ensure that all parties involved are not antagonized enough to jeopardize their relationships. This leads to an awesome ending to the movie with some unexpected twists and turns which I will not divulge here for obvious reasons.
What works for me in this movie are George Clooney’s, Tilda Swinton’s and Tom Wilkinson’s masterful performances as main characters in the story, the taut screenplay which doesn’t go lax even for a moment’s notice, and the fact that the story doesn’t leave any loose ends when it finishes. However, as I mentioned before, this is one movie which relies heavily on dialogs and the spoken word to get its message across. And this could be one reason why people might be tempted to stop watching it mid-way. But then anybody who likes John Grisham books and the Perry Mason novels will love this movie.
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