Michael Clayton, played by the illustrious George Clooney, is what you call a “janitor” in the world of corporate law. If something goes wrong, he cleans it up. In this case, a high profile account is in jeopardy of being lost due to the unraveling psyche of one of their most trusted lawyers, brilliantly played by Tom Wilkinson. As he reels out of control in manic-depressive states, he seemingly is sabotaging the case. Clayton is sent in by his boss, co-producer Sydney Pollack, to investigate what the problem is.
As Michael tries to clear the haze behind the events, he finds that there is more going on than just the unraveling of his friend and co-worker’s mind. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes. Beyond this, Michael’s own life is unraveling at the seems making it hard for him to focus on his family, his job and his own personal freedom.
Michael Clayton excels in its story telling through its characters. Clooney’s sullen performance sets the tone for the films mood. Wilkinson’s manic-depressive lawyer gives the film its fragile existence. Tilda Swinton as the head of the corporation plays the part so subtly, you don’t know what her deal is until near the end of the film. It’s a film about mystery, deception and bending the truth and all its characters do just this.
The triumph of this film is in its writing. Veteran Tony Gilroy writes a flawless script full of authentic dialogue, heartwarming and bone-chilling scenes as well as a story so tight, one will find it hard to find a plot hole to fall through. Although it has its twists and turns, it isn’t impossible to follow over its two-hour run time. It does get a bit complicated, but the character driven thriller as opposed to the plot driven thriller makes it much easier to follow.
Tony Gilroy is at his prime behind the lens and behind the pen in Michael Clayton. Apparently this was a project he has been working on for some time but was interrupted by the more commercial, yet still intriguing Bourne Trilogy. This latest outing shows the growth Gilroy is capable of. With power players like Clooney and Steven Soderbergh producing, a triumph in the thriller genre is upon us. Mixing elements of noir and the modern thriller make Michael Clayton one of the best films of the year. Keep your eyes out come Oscar time as Michael Clayton deserves various nods.