"Michael Clayton" is written, directed, edited and performed to perfection, but lacks the sexy pinache and atmosphere needed to elevate itself above anything other than well-made and intriguing lawyer fodder.
Michael Clayton (2007, Blu-ray)
Directors: Tony Gilroy
Producers: George Clooney, Jennifer Fox, Christopher Goode, James A. Holt,, Anthony Minghella, Kerry Orent, Sydney Pollack, Steve Samuels, Steven Soderbergh
Writers: Tony Gilroy
Features: * Commentary * Deleted Scenes
George Clooney ... Michael Clayton
Tom Wilkinson ... Arthur Edens
Sydney Pollack ... Marty Bach
Tilda Swinton ... Karen Crowder
Michael Clayton Blu-ray Review
It's seems like it would be a grand challenge to make a film or TV show about lawyers exciting, but somehow, on a regular basis, writers and producers manage to craft searing, intense dramas out of an otherwise mundane practice. But as intense as things get, it's rare that lawyer films and shows are loaded with equally compelling characters and dialogue. Such is the case though, with Tony Gilroy's "Michael Clayton."
The film tells the poignant morality tale of "fixer" Michael Clayton (George Clooney, in an Oscar nominated performance), a man that high powered law firms hire to clean semi-corrupt situations involing clients or lawyers themselves. He's referred to as a "miracle worker" by colleagues, a term Clayton seems to appropriately hate. When Clayton is brought in to clean a nasty situation involving a manic depressive high powered lawyer named Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson, who was also nominated), he learns that Eden's wayward mental state may not be totally chemical, but the result of a horrible revelation to his moral conscious. Clayton seeks to uncover the truth while Eden's partners seek to cut all ties, which may involve killing Clayton in the process.
"Michael Clayton" is beautifully woven with suspense and intrigue, perfectly painted with splashy, vibrant dialogue, written to near perfection by Gilroy (also nominated), who also penned the "Bourne" movies. This is Gilroy's directorial debut and while the film does lack the grand atmosphere the screenplay seems to be demanding, Gilroy gives us a morose, subdued environment for the story to play around in. It's hardly eye-catching, but very effective regardless. The film is tightly edited by Gilroy's brother, John, who gives the film a strong, fast pace that keeps the movie going. Gilroy bypasses the "Bourne" series look of frantic, shaky camerawork in order for a more basic easier-on-the-eyes directing style. It proved refreshing given the handheld look of a lot of lawyer-based shows and films these days.
Gilroy's script, as I said above, is wonderfully crafted, woven with strong strings of beautiful, provocative, almost poetic dialogue. The only real problem with Gilroy's script is that it's all a bit too familiar, be it the "Bourne"-esq subplots and plot twists, or the basic lawyer construct. Gilroy rejuvenates the tired concept with dazzling dialogue, but can't seem to shake the familiarity of the twists.
The cast is extraordinary with every major star standing out. Tilda Swinton, who won an Oscar for her role, is terrific as the morally ripped open, scared, somewhat villainous CEO who attempts to cover the secrets behind Eden's breakdown. Clooney is not his usual hip, cool self--instead he's tired, broken and worn and he works incredibly well in the role. Tom Wilkinson's portrayal of Arthur Edens is quite Oscar worthy, and in a year without "No Country for Old Men," the award would have been his.
"Michael Clayton" is a performance piece through-and-through, built around a somewhat used idea. It's written, directed, edited and performed to perfection, but lacks the sexy pinache and atmosphere needed to elevate itself above anything other than well-made and intriguing lawyer fodder.
Film Report Card:
As entertainment: A-
As a film: A-
This is a review of the Blu-ray version of "Michael Clayton."
Warner presents the film in 2.40:1 widescreen at 1080p/VC-1 on a single-layer BD25 disc. I expected this one to look great, but I was shocked to find a very muted, weak transfer within. The film is not very eye-catching and thus, the transfer looks very dull and lacks sharpness. The color palette is also flat, lacking vibrant colors or textures. Black levels are finely tuned though and dust and grain are nonexistent, but differences between the high-def transfer and DVD are only marginal.
Bypassing a high-res audio track, Warner goes with a basic Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It's a decent track though not very enveloping at all. Dialogue is crystal clear and separation seems to be well mixed though subdued. This isn't a booming, robust mix, but it still would have been nice to hear what TrueHD would have sounded like.
Extras are sparse with this release. They include:
• "Audio Commentary" -- Featuring writer/director Tony Gilroy and his brother, editor John Gilroy. This is a dry, boring commentary with little interest at all. Both Gilroy's do offer some trivia and on-set facts, but there are so many dry patches that this commentary just didn't work for me.
• Additional Scenes -- Most involve a removed love interest for Michael Clayton. They were rightfully cut. Optional commentary is available.
The film is presented in a blue "Elite" case and is pretty consistent with Warner titles.
"Michael Clayton" is a very good movie, just not a great one. It comes very close though and is deserved of it's praise. The Blu-ray edition of "Michael Clayton" is barely better than the DVD leaving an upgrade out of the question. The A/V presentation is good, but could have been better. If you don't own this title, the Blu-ray version is certainly worth owning, but nothing to cry home about.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Give this one a rent.
On Blu-ray disc: February 19th, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer