Michael Clayton wasn’t even on my movie radar until I started reading terrific reviews of it a couple of weeks ago. Granted, it’s a hard movie to sum up in a trailer, so I hadn’t seen it hyped very much.
George Clooney (recommendation right there, folks!) plays the title character, and he’s given a lot of dimensions to work with. He’s an attorney whose main function is behind-the-scenes “fixing” of incidents for his firm and their clients – networking, playing angles, making quiet arrangements – and he’s good at it. But he doesn’t want to do it forever, and his plans to move into another line of business have been shaken up by his partner, his substance-abusing brother, so he needs money. He’s got other family issues, as well as an attraction to gambling – he’s a complicated guy. His life gets more complicated when he’s tasked with clearing up the mess created by his firm’s manic-depressive lead litigator, who is wreaking havoc on their biggest case and may take the firm down. The corporation involved in the case will go pretty far to keep the information this lawyer has recently uncovered from getting any further.
This isn’t a by-the-numbers plot, and the viewer needs to pay attention – the film was written by the same screenwriter as the Bourne series, so that’s not surprising, although Michael Clayton is paced very differently and less action-focused. The story and characters are nuanced, and the acting is solid throughout. This isn’t a fun, feel-good film, but it is a smart and thoughtful one.
I love fall – it’s the time of year for movies for grown-ups, and I’d highly recommend seeing this one.