Monday, November 12, 2007
The latest George Clooney vehicle, Michael Clayton, is a high-gloss corporate thriller that demonstrates what a well-oiled machine a big studio picture can be. It's a satisfying ride with impeccable production values and bracing performances, especially by Tom Wilkinson (his eerie voiceover at the outset of the film is shiver-inducing) and Tilda Swinton (seeing her trembling corporate powerhouse of a woman neatly laying out her pantyhose before a big meeting telegraphs so much about her character so elegantly). Still, there's not much here that elevates the genre or lingers on the mind post-credits roll.
Clooney admirably keeps his charm in check as a jaded "fixer" who cleans up nasty legal spills for a top law firm, but he's almost too reserved to care about. A moving scene with his son as they drive away from a family get-together is more a credit to the solid writing than his acting. (Sometimes his strangely heavy-handed black eyeliner is more riveting than his facial expressions in close-ups. Maybe the makeup artist just wanted to buy a little more time with the Cloonster.) Another scene deserving a shout-out for writing is a moment between Clooney's character and his boss at the latter's mansion. Boxer-like dexterity in that dialogue. And Clooney is wearing one sweeeet chocolate brown jacket while delivering the lines.
My biggest beef with the film was the choice to use a flashback storytelling device. It seems to serve no expository purpose, but handily knocks the knees right out from under the climactic chase at the end of the film. WTF? May it please the jury, the prosecution rests.