I recently rewatched Michael Clayton and was just as impressed as I was the first time. George Clooney sometimes doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s all cut out for the smirking, smug Ocean’s movies and little else in the eyes of some. But he’s able to rein it in when the script calls for it. If you’ve seen him in the wonderful Good Night and Good Luck you’ll know what I mean.
Michael Clayton is another of those roles. Clooney’s character is not only supposed to be serious, he’s also completely disillusioned with his situation. World weary and in debt, Clayton is a man not so much on the edge but at the end of his tether.
Clooney does the sighing and the looks of frustration well but it’s the more fiery exchanges with Sydney Pollack that bring the film to life. In his final acting role Pollack is superb, from a withering put down to a journalist hunting for a quote to the moment he comes to the aid of Clooney’s character.
Tom Wilkinson continues his fine run of American accents after movies like Batman Begins and Rush Hour. His manic outbursts and stream of consciousness ramblings are excellently delivered. Tilda Swinton is completely outshone in my opinion. She doesn’t have enough to do, though she gives it a good go. I’m still uncomfortable with performances of 15 minutes getting Oscars. I know Anthony Hopkins isn’t onscreen very long in The Silence of the Lambs but his presence is towering and fills the atmosphere of the film, but I’m biased in that it’s one of my favourites and he’s something of an icon for me.
On the whole, Michael Clayton runs a relatively formulaic path, even down to our protagonist wrestling with demons of his own whilst achieving his quest, but it’s the dialogue from director Tony Gilroy, writer of the Bourne movies, that really shines. It reminds me of Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing scripts. Intelligent and eloquent. An early scene where Clooney’s character puts a wealthy client in his place without ever raising his voice is superbly crafted and delivered.
Enjoyable, deserving of being revisited and a nice chance to see an actor doing work he deserves, I think Michael Clayton is a film worth keeping an eye out for. It was well worth staying up until 1am on a school night, that’s for sure.