When I was growing up, my dad would turn a movie on while he finished up paperwork at night. When the movie ended, he would simply rewind it and start the same movie over again. It never really bothered me too much (except when the movie was Groundhog Day), but I’ve never had the urge to do that myself until I watched Michael Clayton. It’s a very subtle corporate thriller, and I feel like I didn’t quite pick up on everything the first time through. I would like to watch it a couple more times, but since I have a full-time job which not my blog, I can’t do everything I want.
So what’s the story? Michael Clayton is his law firm’s clean-up man. Whenever anything goes wrong, he’s called on to fix it. So when the firm gets a call that one of the partners who was at a deposition has stripped himself and started chasing a witness through the parking lot, Michael Clayton is sent to see what can be done. When he gets there, Michael finds out that everything is not as it seems…
The Good: There were some fabulous performances in this movie. George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a man who’s dealing with all kinds of stress at work and in his family life. It’s a very understated performance. His acting in the last few minutes of the movie and into the end credits was incredible. Tilda Swinton is the head legal counsel for the company that Clayton’s team is supposed to be representing. She is a fascinating character; she is smart and capable, but not at all confident. I’ve never been a huge fan of hers, but I have to admit that she is fabulous in Michael Clayton. Tom Wilkinson plays Arthur Edens, the partner whose breakdown leads Michael Clayton on a search for the truth. Movie director Sydney Pollack does a good acting job as one of the heads of the firm, and Austin Williams plays Michael’s fantasy-novel obsessed young son.
The cinematography really set the mood for the movie. It takes place during the late fall or early winter, and the cold, dying landscape and the wintry light reflected Michael’s mood.
The Bad: I like to think that I’m an intelligent person, but I know I missed some plot points. I will admit that I was tired and my brain wasn’t functioning at full capacity, but feel like I shouldn’t have to watch a movie more than once to understand all of what’s going on.
Also, why were the horses in the field bridled? I’m no horse expert, but I have always thought that horses don’t wear their bridles when they are left in the pasture. It’s a silly thing, but it disquieted me for the whole movie.
The Ugly: Even though Michael Clayton was interesting and had good acting, I never connected with the movie on an emotional level. I feel like I should have felt something, but the movie felt more like an intellectual logic puzzle than a work that touched my soul. I think an excellent movie should touch the viewer in some way.
Oscar Won: Best performance by an actress in a supporting role (Tilda Swinton).
Other Oscar Nominations: Best motion picture of the year; best performance by an actor in a leading role (George Clooney); best performance by an actor in a supporting role (Tom Wilkinson); best achievement in directing; best writing, original screenplay; best achievement in music written for motion pictures, original score.