Michael Clayton Review
When it comes to movies, the term legal thriller has always sounded like an oxymoron to me. The term legal reminds me of long documents full of terms and conditions I don’t understand, and even if I did understand them I still wouldn’t care about what they were saying. In short, the legal world is boring to me. Thrillers are anything but boring; they are full of exciting elements like car crashes, backstabbing, and sex. Which is why I tend to scoff when I hear a movie described as a legal thriller. Even with this skepticism, I still went to see the 10:00 am showing of Michael Clayton, a legal thriller.
The film sets up nicely, giving the audiences various pieces to the puzzle. We hear the agitated voice of Arthur Edens, played by the superb Tom Wilkerson. Next, we are introduced to Michael’s boss, Marty Bach; it appears as if Marty has been up all night looking at long documents full of terms I wouldn’t understand. Eventually, we see Michael Clayton, the George Clooney. It’s very late and Michael, looking just as run down as his boss, is playing cards at an unknown location.
Next, Michael gets a phone call and is off to help one of the other lawyer’s clients that got in a little hit and run trouble. It is through these next scenes that we start to learn what Michael Clayton does for the law firm. Michael is damage control. When a case or a client needs “special” handling”, Michael is called to make sure the necessary steps are taken. He is like “The Wolf” from Pulp Fiction except he works for a law firm, not a mob boss. Eventually we meet Arthur Edens, the author of the self-examining monologue that opened the film. Arthur is one of the law firm’s best attorneys and is heading the defense for the chemical company U North, who is involved in a class action lawsuit. Recently, Arthur snapped during a deposition and Michael Clayton was called in to fix the mess. The film centers on Michael’s involvement with Arthur and the U North case.
Michael Clayton is an interesting and entertaining movie. Never getting dragged down or diverted by its legal context. In thrillers, pacing is key and Michael Clayton knows this. The film is edited at a steady and deliberate pace; allowing Michael Clayton to stay on track on its way to a satisfying conclusion. The soundtrack is used skillfully. Appearing when it should in order to enhance the tension and excitement of the film.
Clooney is superb as Michael. Mr. Clooney’s acting, for the most part, is subtle but precise, which is necessary when portraying a reluctant and solemn hero like Michael Clayton. Michael seldom lifts his head up and usually avoids eye contact. At one point, we see Michael in his office offering advice to various attorneys. His speech is slow; he takes long pauses between sentences and clients. We know he’s not a man who enjoys his job, but rather has accepted it. The supporting cast is on par with Mr. Clooney. A-list director and producer Sydney Pollack does a fine job with the character of Marty Bach, Michael’s boss. However, everyone in the cast, not just Mr. Pollack, does a great job keeping up with Clooney.
Michael Clayton is a satisfactory thriller, as well as a competent character study. The film examines people who have sold their soul for their work. Michael Clayton does this by looking at the effects that defending the guilty has on different lawyers. The emotional impact created by these scenes make Michael Clayton superior to other thrillers that are only concerned with exciting the audience.