Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Michael Clayton(2007)

In this classic, suspenseful drama, George Clooney plays a man caught between his conscience and the greed of corporate America. Reminiscent of many recent whistle-blowing cases, this film is a thrilling character study of people forced to make decisions, as depicted through a multi-layered story based on flashbacks.

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is a 45-year-old attorney with the prestigious New York law firm of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. He doesn't really practice law because he is used as a "fixer", better known as the man with the ability to solve other people's problems. A former criminal prosecutor from a working-class neighborhood, he is an anomaly at this high-powered firm. His boss Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) finds Michael's talents a necessity in cleaning up the firm's uncomfortable problems quickly and quietly. Michael gets a call concerning the firm's top litigator, Arthur Eden (Tom Wilkinson), who has suffered a mental breakdown. This incident is linked to a cover-up jeopardizing a lucrative case, so Michael's talent for fixing a problem is needed. At the same time Michael has his own problems he needs to address immediately. His life is in a mess -- he's a compulsive gambler, a lonely divorced man, and is under the pressure of owing money to "wise guys" due to an unwise investment in a restaurant business venture that failed.

The cover-up is the meat of the plot. This sets the tension up involving the corporate espionage of U/North Corporation, the client of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. U/North's newly appointed chief counsel and litigator Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) finds her career hanging on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class action lawsuit. Arthur Eden's feelings of guilt over his part of representing U/North causes him to sabotage the case by becoming a whistle-blower. Arthur discovers evidence of toxic waste polluting a region resulting in illness and death. Murder and bribery isn't beneath anyone who wants to hide the secrets of corruption. Michael must decide on what is important in his life.

George Clooney - political advocate, writer, director, and actor - gives an excellent performance in portraying this complex character. He establishes a genuine depth as a man dealing with multiple issues and coming to grips with what he takes seriously in life. It's always a marvel to see Sidney Pollack on screen and in this film he is very effective as the head of the law firm. Tilda Swinton's portrayal of an eager hotshot lawyer in over her head was outstanding. Her role as a struggling, aggressive woman in a man's world was impressive. Her cold persona was always present in every scene. The most formidable performance was by Tom Wilkinson as a bipolar and manic depressive, brilliant man set on exposing a fraud. He is outstanding in the limited scenes he has in this movie
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