With all the popcorn cinema that is released, it’s refreshing to see something like Michael Clayton.
The new film, starring George Clooney in the titular role, is about a “fixer” at a prestigious law firm. A series of problematic events turns dangerous when the firm’s star litigator goes crazy and turns a case against his client, the massive energy conglomerate UNorth. To say more would detract from the incisive intensity that pervades throughout the film. It seems that it’s becoming increasingly hard to find movies that expect something from its audience. Michael Clayton sweeps you up in an enthralling maelstrom of deception, corporate corruption and paranoia, and it never stops to let you speculate.
The result is an ostensibly basic and almost minimalist surface. Dialogue is the sole agent of progression, and these legal and political types speak a language anyone can understand. But it’s what they’re not saying, what lies under the seemingly simple structure, that gives the film such a deep and memorable story. In other words, it finds a perfect balance between intelligence and confusion.
If the film has one shortcoming, it’s Clayton himself. While he does move the plot and keep us interested, he is never given a human dimension. The closest we get to a soft side is a brilliant scene with his son. Still, one may argue Clayton’s detachment fits in with the theme of the cold, corporate model.
Michael Clayton shows that considerable depth can be wrought from dialogue and little else-and that not all films need explosions to entertain.
Gabe Habash may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.