Michael Clayton 

George Clooney neither shape-shifts with chameleonic virtuosity, devours scenery with actorly intensity, or indulges sentimentality to beg for your love. But he's a terrific movie actor in the old-fashioned, pre-Method understanding of the type. He has presence and charm, with the skill and gravitas to give his performances more depth in the right settings. As Michael Clayton, the gradually unraveling "fixer" at a high-powered law firm, Clooney takes his suave, assured screen persona and shows it in a rattled, uncertain state. He has the look and feel of Cary Grant's dramatic performances in movies such as Notorious or, especially, North By Northwest.

And, thankfully, he delivers it in a movie good enough to match him. The story of an attorney in the midst of a moral awakening, confronting a complicated ethical dilemma, Michael Clayton seems to be a legal thriller in the John Grisham mold, except Grisham's protagonists are rarely (ever?) allowed to be so morally compromised.

Here, Clooney's legal custodian is pulled into the morass of a class action suit against a giant chemical company after his colleague (Tom Wilkinson), who has been charged with defending the corporation, goes off the reservation. Writer/director Tony Gilroy twists the story's chronology in smart, modest ways, leaping backward from an opening scene to elaborate on the crucial bits of character and narrative information presented early on. Some plot twists and motivations may not hold up very well under scrutiny, but as an act of procedural moviemaking and morally complex character development, Michael Clayton is terrific.

Now showing, multiple locations.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Free In Deed

      The acclaimed, made-in-Memphis drama makes its theatrical debut
    • Moana

      Disney goes Polynesian!
    • Moonlight

      Director Barry Jenkins creates a rapturous trip through a tragic young life.

Blogs

News Blog

UTHSC Awarded Grant to Study Tobacco Use in Military

News Blog

Here Comes the 'Ikea Effect'

Politics Beat Blog

Dems' State Senate Leader Foresees Clashes with Haslam

Politics Beat Blog

Medical Marijuana Coming to Tennessee?

News Blog

MadAir Event on Saturday

Music Blog

River Records' Jerry Gibson Killed in Store

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies 88, Trail Blazers 86: Haiku Game Notes

Memphis Gaydar

OUTMemphis Set to Host Open House for Area LGBTQ Seniors

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation