Film & DVD Review: Michael Clayton

Reviewed by David Kerr

Certification: Finland:K-11 | Denmark:11 | Canada:14A (Alberta/Manitoba/Ontario) | Argentina:13 | Singapore:NC-16 | USA:R (certificate #43163) | Canada:PG (British Columbia) | Norway:11 | Australia:MA | Brazil:12 | South Africa:13L | Portugal:M/12 (Qualidade) | Switzerland:12 (canton of Vaud) | Taiwan:R-12 (original rating) | France:U | Germany:12 | Ireland:15A | Switzerland:12 (canton of Geneva) | UK:15 | Netherlands:6 | South Korea:15 | Sweden:11 | Hong Kong:IIB | Canada:G (Quebec)

  • Studio: Pathe Distribution
  • UK DVD Release Date: 18 Feb 2008
  • Run Time: 115 minutesMICHAEL CLAYTON passed me by completely when it received its cinema release last September. I never read or heard anything about it so I had absolutely no preconceptions at all when I received this review DVD. This has to be one of George Clooney’s tightest roles for quite some time. Gone is the humour and fun of the highly acclaimed Oh Brother Where are Thou?

    Clayton (Clooney) is a complex, flawed character. He works to clean up other people’s messes for a huge New York law firm on the brink of a takeover bid. ‘I’m not a miracle worker. I’m a janitor.’ Clayton runs into a whole bunch of trouble when manic depressive Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson in a tremendous scene-stealing role) – a senior litigating partner in the firm – cracks up. Arthur has been handling a litigation case for a huge chemical corporation when he discovers that United Northfield’s weedkiller kills people too. He rejects his former career of ‘scheming, stalling and screaming’ on behalf of his corporate client when he sees the effects of its products on a young girl from rural Wisconsin. Clayton tries to rein his friend back in line. At the same time, he is deep in debt, trying desperately to raise cash to bail out his no-good alcoholic junkie brother, Timmy.

    While this is going on, his ambitious opposite number in the chemical company is also desperately trying to contain the Arthur problem. Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) has to go to whatever lengths she can to stop him from rocking the boat and costing her company millions of dollars. Karen is circumspect about what she wants done about Arthur but the two men she employs have no limits. Then she runs up against Clayton as he seeks to pick up his old friend’s trail and see where he intended to go with it. Clayton doesn’t realise it but the two goons are also on his trail. Watching these two guys at work really chills the blood.

    If you’re looking for an action-packed thrill-a-minute blockbuster, you’ll likely be disappointed. This a complex, thoughtful movie. Pay attention or you’ll miss something but at least with the DVD you can check back at crucial points in the gripping narrative.

    Michael Clayton examines the choices we each have to make and the consequences of our actions through clever use of flashback over a five-day period. Karen’s road to self-destruction began gradually as she got deeper into her bad initial choice. Clayton’s path can take him either way. Right to the end, this compelling movie leaves us wondering. Will he do the right thing or will he too fall by the wayside?

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