crime and punishment

Michael Clayton PosterWondering what all the hubbub had been about, we watched Michael Clayton. As my second George Clooney movie (following O Brother, Where Art Thou? and I liked this one better), I must admit that I can’t hold anything against the guy.

Michael Clayton is a somewhat confusing thriller, as it takes a bit of time to figure out what the hell is going on and who the hell this Michael Clayton guy is, but it becomes apparent that he is some sort of special lawyer who takes care of “problems” for this big law firm. It takes forever for us to see him do anything that shows any of his great ability, as he mainly seems to drive around and fail to convince people of things while his life seems to be heading a bit downhill. But, of course, something does come up. For years his firm has been fighting a class action law suit for a chemical firm against a bunch of farm families, who have lost hundreds of their family members to pesticide poisoning. There is potentially billions of dollars on the line, and the survival of the law firm if anything goes wrong. Well, of course, something does goes wrong, something rather unexpected. The firms high-powered and vicious attorney who is running the case, suddenly realizes that all this stuff that he has spent his life doing is bad stuff and he needs to right this wrong against these farmers… And it becomes time for some major damage control. Clayton is basically told to straighten it out, and of course, the rebellious lawyer is one of Clayton’s closest friends.

Though Michael Clayton made me think often of A Civil Action, another film about lawyers battling limitless corporate greed, they really have little in common (aside from their hostile views towards corporate greed and people who do bad things while turning a blind eye to the realities of what they are doing) as Michael Clayton is a snazzy Hollywood thriller with: car bombs, clandestine surveillance, murder, mob shenanigans, corruption and all sorts of unsavory elements.

Clooney, of course, does a fine job as Michael Clayton, but there are some other good roles: Tom Wilkinson as the attorney gone to the other side is compelling and great, Sydney Pollack (hmmm.. Also in A Civil Action) brings along his usual believability and does a great job as the head of the law firm and Tilda Swinton plays the consul of the chemical company, and does an uncomfortably great job with that. And Tony Gilroy did a good job, especially as a first time director, and it is certainly a good movie, but I’m still not sure why all the Oscar buzz. Maybe the rest of the choices were crap?



 

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