Combustible Celluloid
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With: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack, Michael O'Keefe, Sean Cullen, Ken Howard, Denis O'Hare, Robert Prescott, Austin Williams, Merritt Wever, David Lansbury, Bill Raymond, David Zayas, Skipp Sudduth
Written by: Tony Gilroy
Directed by: Tony Gilroy
MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual dialogue
Running Time: 119
Date: 08/31/2007

Michael Clayton (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Law and Disorder

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The talented and lucky screenwriter Tony Gilroy has enjoyed a career of semi-regular gigs, writing several films for director Taylor Hackford (Dolores Claiborne, Proof of Life, etc.) and working on all three Bourne films. Making his directorial debut, this self-sufficient scribe had no one to tell him that his new screenplay was excessively talky. But at the same time, it's such a skilled job of directing and writing that the pages and pages of technical talk and lists of names and numbers all sound like actual dialogue rather than exposition. George Clooney stars as an in-house "fixer" for a big law firm; he does everything for his clients except go to trial. Michael's troubles begin when the head litigator (Tom Wilkinson) on a long-running chemical-related suit suddenly snaps. Meanwhile, the evil head corporate lawyer (Tilda Swinton) stops at nothing to get the suit settled. Gilroy attempts to tie together the plot and Clayton's own outside troubles, which include a huge debt, a failed bar and a barely-tamed gambling addiction, but it seems tacked-on. Regardless, Gilroy's quiet, moody direction relies on anticipation and sleight-of-hand, and it works beautifully. Moreover, it lacks the overt sociopolitical magnitude of the similar Syriana. The performances are all superb, notably that of Sydney Pollack, who once again proves he's a better actor than a director. Steven Soderbergh and Anthony Minghella served as producers. Michael Clayton

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