Thursday, February 21, 2008
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is the so-called janitor for a giant law firm representing some of the biggest companies in the world. Clayton gets called in to clean up the problems real lawyers don't want to touch. In the case of this film, Clayton is out to fix a problem when their top litigator Artur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) strips down during a deposition. It seems Edens has gone off his medication and could compromise the defense of a class action lawsuit against the makers of a weed killer. It seems multiple people have died from complications from it, although those are never really gone into in any great detail.
Clayton's other subplots for strickly for subplot sake. There is a mess with his loser brother and the debt they incurred over the failed opening of a restaurant. Money is further complicated as he has a giant apartment left over from before his divorce and a gambling problem. All of these elements are completely unnecesary for the plot. It is just all padding in an attempt to try and make this simple story seem like there is more going on.
The underlying plot is straight forward with director Tony Gilroy aping producer Steven Soderbergh's style down to a T. Robert Elswit (Oscar nominated for There Will Be Blood) is called on to class up the film with his DOP work. Elswit does what he can with what he has... the cinematography is tremendous for a movie of this limited depth. His work almost feels wasted here.
The actors are fine - Clooney for Best Actor is quite the stretch though. I found his turn as a man who regrets his past 17 years and wants to get out to be quite pedestrian. There's nothing extra he brings to the table, which can also be said of the rest of the cast sans Tilda Swinton. Swinton is the head of the legal team for the lawyers representing the company in trouble. The problem with Swinton is that there just isn't enough of her.
Gilroy spends way too time setting this film up with extraneous characters and back story for Clooney. By the time you do get to a solid ending, you are just left wishing it had come earlier. Saved by the last 20 minutes.