One of the most intelligent films of the year
The script has a tendency to overemphasize several themes. Most lines that take longer than ten seconds to deliver are morphed into long speeches filled with quick-paced wordplay and lots and lots of underlying meaning. The character of Michael’s son seems there only to ramble on about a book that seems to connect to everyone else’s life in some way or another. And in an effort to inject some suspense and confusion in the viewer, the prologue takes place four days into the film’s plot. While it does successfully create a sense of disorientation (as in the best paranoia thrillers), the sequence becomes rather tedious and ineffective when the film returns to it.
But the film is bolstered by strong performances all around. As the titular character, Clooney strips himself of the easygoing charm so obviously detectable in most of his roles thus far. Here, he is driven and determined, relying on his tenacity and quick-thinking rather than his ability to win people over. Tilda Swinton is equally intriguing as the spokeswoman of the corporation, though she is sadly underused. The biggest impression, and the showiest performance, is given by Wilkinson, whose raving antics (“I am Sheba the god of death!”) have been a staple of the film’s promotion. For most of the film, interest is driven purely by Wilkinson, wondering if his nearly-incoherent ramblings mean anything. Though the film is anchored ably by Clooney’s solid work, one almost wishes Wilkinson were the focus.
Gilroy films in a very sparse, cold and sleek style. Each of the characters seem isolated, often the lone figures in long takes. The muted color scheme and dim lighting also heighten the subdued, quiet nature of the film. While nothing revolutionary, the film’s look serves its purpose and supports the script and the performances, which are the heart of the piece. Gilroy is still much more of a writer than a director, but that doesn’t keep MICHAEL CLAYTON from being one of the most intelligent, involving thrillers this year. It will not grip audiences with constant tension or half-hour long chase sequences; it prefers to get under your skin and unsettle you from there. And in the end, it is the latter that is much more effective.
Full review at http://newmanscorner.blogspot.com