Seeing this flick reminded me that I almost always dig a movie if Clooney’s in it. Even the OCEAN’S ELEVEN sequels worked for me, thanks mainly to him.
His easy charm and self-deprecating humor. His easy surrender to less than glamorous roles and a less than glamorous image portraying them, ala the CIA guy in SYRIANA and even the title character in MICHAEL CLAYTON.
Not that he put on the weight or added the beard or any of that to play Clayton, but he does let himself go enough, or be made up well enough, to signal the sleeplessness of sometimes petty desperation.
But man, can he communicate some deep emotional shifts with a grace few movie stars have today.
Though not all the scenes in MICHAEL CLAYTON are shot at night, enough are to add to the other elements of “film noir” to make this movie a classic of the genre. Rare these days, when the usual attempts to recapture the dark but redemptive sensibility of that genre usually err on the dark side, overdoing it in a way that often becomes almost campy in their melodramatic overkill.
Not in MICHAEL CLAYTON, That quality that made film noir so seductive, which I thought had mostly disappeared, this flick resurrects. The lone, cynical, beat up by life, anti-hero versus the truly heartless bastards that rule the world he lives in, (and we do too)—or are trying to. Classic.
Anyway, even if MICHAEL CLAYTON didn’t have those familiar noir tropes, this movie would still have had me from the start. Even if the common noir device of starting the story with a voiceover monologue—in this case from actor Tom Wilkerson—was a little pushed, a little overdone, for me (even though I too, as a writer, have been accused of that and more) it still works.
And it kept my attention with the classy way it handled the details of the unfolding mystery cum expose (including the camera work). But it also kept my attention with the subtleties of the milieu—lawyers and cops in the same family, dealing with the same inequities of justice. The kind of Irish-American family I know well and have seen overdone or portrayed unrealistically or acted unrealistically (based on my lifelong experience) as in the family in the otherwise excellently acted Nick Cage movie WORLD TRADE CENTER, or the overdone Boston Irish mob boss in THE DEPARTED, et. al.
Not in MICHAEL CLAYTON. The alcoholic brother, the gambling brother, the cop brother who effortlessly holds the power position among them, and the sisters and kids. It’s all there without an ounce of over ripeness or stereophonic Irishness.
The reality of the family background gave the film substance and a foundation that made the plot devices seem better grounded in reality than these kinds of anti-hero stumbling on life-changing truths, or wasted life redeemed, kinds of stories usually have.
It made it resonate so deeply, at least for this viewer, I felt that solid satisfaction a great movie experience can give you, or maybe I mean that great satisfaction a solid movie can give you, either way, I left the film satisfied. I think you will too.