Thursday, January 10, 2008

10 Best Films of 2007: #4 - Michael Clayton

Classic in its execution, few films are as enjoyable and flawless in their exercise of the genre as Michael Clayton. George Clooney plays the title character that looks like he has been doing his job (a “janitor” for a big time company) for a little too long. Clooney looks dogged and tired and like he wants out of the business. He owes money for a failed restraint/bar experiment and you get the feeling that is the only reason why he is sticking around: the money. His ever-growing conscious and suspicions about his job are the only sings of moral responsibility in this corrupt and cold (suggested by the beautiful cinematography) business world. Also, Tilda Swinton is so good at being so loathsome.

For the character of Michael Clayton, his monetary obligations cause him to remain committed to his employers in doing one last job that is the catalyst for how the film plays out. A silky smooth thriller which pays homage to the great 1970 films that trusted their audience to have patience and try to figure things out for themselves. There are no double turns or last second revelations, there are no hidden clues that will reveal one character is actually a mole or some crap like that. The director Tony Gilroy (he wrote the Bourne movies, but wisely stays away from the shaky cam) is obviously influenced by 3 Days of the Condor and The Conversation, smart adult thrillers that understood how to tell a story simply and let the actors do their thing.

He and cinematographer Robert Elswit (Syriana, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) create an icy blue corporate world, a landscape where Clooney and his superb costars Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson can show off their acting chops.

I think what I liked best about Michael Clayton was that it wasn’t trying to be some political thriller or a message movie. It is simply a genre picture that excels on every level. And that last shot is maybe one of the best shots of the year, where the viewer is invited to look just a little bit longer at the title character. There isn’t much else I can say about the film other than how technically masterful it is. I guess the word I am looking for is efficient. Every cog in its machine is in place and runs smoothly. Or simply, everyone who worked on this film hits a home run.


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