Argumentative August #19 – Michael Clayton (2007) – movierob.wordpress.com
Rob and I would like to once again welcome you to another review for our Argumentative August Blogathon. This next film, Michael Clayton is being reviewed by Sherise of The Girl Who Loved to Review. Let’s see what she thought of this movie…
Michael Clayton (2007)
This is my second review for the Argumentative August blogathon. Having watched A Few Good Men just a few days before watching Michael Clayton really affected how I view the film. Examining the two films is a great way to see how the courtroom drama has evolved.
In Michael Clayton, George Clooney plays a lawyer hired to clean up a billion dollar class action lawsuit against a chemical company after the head defense attorney has a mental breakdown.
Comparing A Few Good Men and Michael Clayton shows that the two films have differing views on what it means to be a lawyer. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise is a good guy lawyer. He is admirable because he is fighting for what is right against great odds. The film applauds him and his prowess in the courtroom. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) evolves over the course of the film from a naïve, young man to a more mature and commendable one. Michael Clayton takes a very different view of lawyers. Both Michael and Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) refer to themselves as ‘janitors.’ They don’t do anything noble or heroic, they are paid to clean up other people’s messes. Michael grows over the course of the film, but he seems even more broken than he was before, he does not feel proud or any sense of accomplishment.
Michael Clayton is a really interesting legal drama because none of it happens in the courtroom. Other than a video tape of a court hearing all the drama happens outside the courthouse. This is in sharp contrast to A Few Good Men which shows everything that happens in the courtroom and it is integral to the plot. The plot of Michael Clayton is more of a mystery than a court case and is driven more by the characters than any evidence.
I think Michael Clayton is by far the superior film, possibly one of the best legal dramas ever. I would go back and knock A Few Good Men down a couple pegs if I could. Michael Clayton is a more mature drama for a more pessimistic age. A Few Good Men wants to be uplifting and Oscar-baity. Michael Clayton doesn’t care about Oscars and it isn’t heavy on any specific message. Scenes like the cold, calculated, emotionless killing of a lawyer are done quietly, with no heart string pulling score in the background. The scene is more brutal because the director choose to let it stand on its own. The same goes for my favorite scene form the film: the end credits. Sounds like a weird scene to choose, right? It’s simple George Clooney sitting in cab. That’s it. The audience sees his face and the traffic outside the rear window. That’s all. But it is extremely powerful, to watch the subtle emotions that travel over Michael’s face. You can feel the weight of everything that’s happened. It’s incredible acting and a perfect way to end the film.
The superb directing of Michael Clayton is paired with amazing acting talent. I am not a George Clooney fan, in fact, I hate him. His smug attitude as he tries to exude Carey Grant. The way the media kisses his ass…ugh. But here he is playing against type. Michael Clayton is a broken man, with no money, no hot girl to seduce, and absolutely nothing to be proud of. He has nothing going for him. George actually managed to make me forget that I was watching “George Clooney.” Tilda Swinton (the Alien Queen Goddess who we should all worship) won the Oscar for Best Supporting actress for this film and it is easy to see why. She is outstanding as Karen, an ambitious lawyer working her way up in the U-North chemical company. She is a woman who is pitch perfect in public, but behind closed doors she is a sweating, nervous breakdown. Corruption takes it’s toll on Karen in spectacular fashion when she faces off against Michael. The other amazing actor in this film is the criminally underappreciated Tom Wilkinson. I am a huge fan of his and this is probably his best role. As Arthur, the manic lawyer, he brilliantly and seamlessly displays so many emotions. From talking like a crazy person to suddenly being very sane as he talks in detail about the law.
Michael Clayton is a great drama that kept me enthralled the entire time. George, Tilda, and Tom do some of the best work in their careers here. The film left me affected much like Michael Clayton was in the cab. Speechless. 9/10