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Tony Gilroy
George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Michael O'Keefe, Sydney Pollack, Danielle Skraastad, Tilda Swinton
Writing Credits:
Tony Gilroy

The Truth Can Be Adjusted.

Attorney Michael Clayton is a "fixer," the go-to guy when his powerful New York law firm wants a mess swept under the rug. But now he's handed a crisis even he may not be able to fix. The firm's top litigator in a $3-billion case has gone from advocate to whistleblower. And the more Michael tries to undo the damage, the more he's up against forces that put corporate survival over human life - including Michael's.

George Clooney portrays Michael, backed into a career corner that offers little room to fight free in this suspense - and star-packed thriller written and directed by Tony Gilroy (writer/co-writer of the Bourne movie trilogy). Keep your eyes on Michael Clayton. He has some life-or-death decisions to make. Fast.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$719.910 thousand on 15 screens.
Domestic Gross
$41.653 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 2/19/2008

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tony Gilroy and Editor John Gilroy
• Additional Scenes
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Michael Clayton (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 11, 2008)

Only a two years after his win for Syriana, George Clooney returns to the pool of Oscar nominees for 2007’s Michael Clayton. Clooney plays the title character, an attorney who works as a “fixer”. His firm sends him in to take care of difficult situations for their wealthy clients. For his next assignment, he needs to take care of Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), an attorney at his firm who appears to have gone a little bonkers.

While he works on a lawsuit involving a massive conglomerate called United Northfield – or “UNorth” for short - Edens cracks and starts to behave in bizarre ways. For instance, he strips naked during a court deposition. This occurs because the morality – or lack thereof – related to Arthur’s job. The firm tries to protect UNorth from an action connected to a weed killer with some toxic side effects.

It turns out that the honchos at UNorth knew about this and covered it up, a fact that eventually drives Arthur over the edge. He can’t take the guilt attached with his attempts to defend such heinous behavior, so he loses control – and actually starts to gather evidence against UNorth. The movie follows Clayton’s attempts to “fix” the situation with Arthur as well as the UNorth side of things as well, a movement headed by the company’s chief counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton).

I regard Clayton as a throwback to the films of the Seventies, and I mean that in a good way. Granted, at times the flick nods toward its influences a little too strongly, and the result can seem a bit self-conscious at times. Nonetheless, it usually does a good job in the way it captures the gritty spirit of Seventies dramas. I don’t know if it’s as complex as the best of those flicks, but it does attempt a certain moral ambiguity that makes it intriguing.

At its heart, though, Clayton works due to a strong cast. That doesn’t mean I feel the actors must compensate for poor writing or directing, as that’s not the case; both of those elements and the rest of the production are perfectly solid. However, I believe that weaker actors would’ve easily sent the story down a trite path, so they elevate material fraught with potential potholes.

As the lead, Clooney carries a lot of the load, and he does well in that vein. I don’t know how much heavy lifting he does here, though, as Clayton doesn’t differ a lot from the usual Clooney slick customer. However, Michael comes across as a much more fallible and vulnerable version of the standard Clooney role. The actor dials back his innate charisma to deliver something subtle and rich here.

Swinton’s turn as corporate lackey Crowder proves even more memorable. One sign of a strong performance comes from perceived screen time versus actual screen time. I saw Clayton theatrically, and my memories told me that Swinton appeared a ton. However, that’s not the case; she actually shows up relatively infrequently. Ala Hannibal Lecter, Swinton’s Crowder provides a character who makes the absolute most of limited footage. Swinton forms an indelible impression with the role and also makes sure that Karen never becomes a one-dimensional white-collar villain. No, she doesn’t make Crowder likable or sympathetic, but Swinton humanizes her and creates a surprisingly real personality.

I suppose the weakest link of the main actors comes from Wilkinson’s take on Arthur. I don’t want to call it bad work, as it’s not, but Arthur feels like the most obvious performance of the bunch. Wilkinson clearly channels Peter Finch from Network and doesn’t do quite enough to turn Arthur into much more than a raving nutjob. Admittedly, much of this comes from the nature of the part; outside of one quick scene in which Arthur reminds us of his legal acumen, the movie doesn’t offer much for him to do other than act crazy. Still, I wish Wilkinson had dialed back his performance some to give the role more nuance.

I also could’ve lived without the stock villains Karen sics on her opponents. These guys feel like they’re from another movie, as they seem like generic black bag operatives who exist simply to motivate some plot points. They do that, but I think the filmmakers could’ve come up with more creative ways to do the same thing. The goons never quite fit into the world of this movie.

Even with that and a few other minor flaws, Michael Clayton proves satisfying. It gives us a character-based legal drama that remains consistently involving. While it reinvents no wheels, it does more than enough to succeed within its own world.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Michael Clayton appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. After a rough start, the disc eased into a much more satisfying visual presentation.

Those first few minutes definitely suffered from some significant concerns. Grain seemed awfully heavy, and the movie demonstrated a rather jaggie, blocky look. For instance, check out Clooney’s hair at the poker game; the artifacts made George’s coif appear really rough.

Some mild instances of those concerns still materialized over the rest of the flick, as I noticed occasional minor instances of edge haloes and blocky definition. However, the problems became much less significant and were pretty minimal over the majority of the film.

For those portions of the flick, I thought sharpness was solid. Very little softness showed up through this tight, well-defined presentation. Source flaws remained absent. I still noticed some light grain, but not much, and other defects didn’t come along for the ride.

In terms of colors, Clayton went with a lot of teal. Other scenes opted for a more orange/amber feel, but a bluish tint dominated. Within those parameters, the hues seemed fine.

Blacks were dark and deep, and shadow detail seemed quite good, as low-light shots demonstrated fine clarity. Some of the artifacts were too noticeable for me to give the DVD a grade over a “B-”, but after its first few minutes, the transfer was usually very satisfying.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Michael Clayton, it presented an unsurprisingly laid-back experience. This wasn’t a dynamic action flick, so general ambience dominated the soundfield. I thought it added a little environmental material but nothing that stood out as memorable. Even the sequence in which Clayton’s car exploded remained unimpressive in terms of scope. Music provided a little more kick, but overall, this was a subdued mix.

At least I thought audio quality was quite good. Music showed nice range and clarity, with crisp highs and solid lows. Effects lacked much punch, but they were acceptably accurate and clean. Speech was an important commodity and worked fine. The lines were always natural and concise. This became a serviceable mix that seemed appropriate for a film of this sort.

When we head to the DVD’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy. The brothers sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They start with a look at the project’s origins and development before they dig into cast and performances, editing and cinematography, story and deleted scenes, score, sets and locations, and a few other production specifics.

Even though they claim to hate self-congratulatory commentaries, the brothers can’t resist the urge to throw out a lot of praise, especially as the flick progresses. Nonetheless, they go over more than enough good info to make this a worthwhile discussion. Tony dominates and digs into plenty of informative subjects. I could live without the happy talk, but I think the track emerges as a generally good one.

Three Additional Scenes last a total of five minutes, 30 seconds. The first (3:23) shows a secret romantic fling between Clayton and a coworker, while the second (1:22) shows the follow-up for the hit and run case Michael handles. For the final clip (0:45), we see more prep for the planting of the car bomb. Scene One feels pretty superfluous to me; it’s vaguely interesting to learn something about Michael’s private life, but I don’t think it adds to anything since we already get a good feel for the dead-end life lived by Clayton.

Scene Three is pretty pointless, I believe, as it’s just technical chit-chat, though it does attempt to tell us why the baddies went with such a noisy way to kill Michael. I like Scene Two, as it’s good to find out just what Michael does for that case. Yeah, it doesn’t really serve the plot, but it bothers me that the final cut leaves us hanging about the hit and run, so I like that segment.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Tony and John Gilroy. They tell us a little about the scenes and let us know why they cut them. Their remarks give us some nice insights.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Get Smart, The Brave One, 10,000 BC, Shall We Begin?, State of Play and The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. No trailer for Clayton appears here.

If you desire a nice throwback to the stark dramas of the 1970s, Michael Clayton should satisfy you. It maintains that era’s grittiness and lack of sentimentality but still manages to feel modern and fresh. Some excellent performances help buoy it and make the movie memorable. The DVD comes with erratic but usually satisfying visuals, acceptable audio and a few decent extras. I don’t think this is a great DVD, but the movie deserves your attention.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0714 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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