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Michael Clayton

Posted November. 27, 2007 03:23,   


He is a problem solver and he never fails. He is often called a “man of miracles.” Although he is a lawyer working for a giant law firm in everyone’s eyes, he is in fact the in-house “fixer” who takes care of clients’ dirty work. His name is “Michael Clayton,” the main character of the eponymous movie, which is to be released this Thursday.

Michael (George Clooney) has a hard time making ends meet, and is unable to pay off his debts. One day, his colleague Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), in charge of a massive class-action lawsuit, has a breakdown in court. Although Michael is sent in to tackle this unprecedented disaster, Arthur is soon found dead after hinting that the truth has been fabricated. Michael then comes across some confidential documents.

The movie is the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of the much-loved “Jason Bourne” series. The movie’s ending credits are studded with Academy Award winning directors and actors. Anthony Minghella, director of “The English Patient,” and Steven Soderbergh, director of “Traffic” and the “Ocean’s” series produced the movie together. In addition, Sydney Pollack, director of “Out of Africa,” appears on the screen as a sidekick. George Clooney, the hero of the movie, received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the movie “Syriana” in 2006. When the movie was released in the U.S., rumors began to circulate that Clooney could win the next Academy Award for Best Actor.

Clooney, Hollywood’s heartthrob, has transformed himself into a symbol of Hollywood’s conscience, sending political messages in Michael Clayton and Syriana as an actor, and in “Good Night, and Good Luck” as a director.

Michael Clayton definitely has what a movie takes to win an Academy Award. However, it is far from conventional entertainment and was not a box office hit. Nonetheless, it differentiates itself from other Hollywood dramas that depict individuals versus conspiracies within a gigantic firm with a brilliant cast and style.

In comparison to Steven Soderbergh’s "Erin Brockovich," which gave Julia Roberts the Academy Award for Best Actress, Michael Clayton focuses more on the darker side of conspiracy. While Erin Brockovich features an individual persevering to the end until she brings a conspiracy of a large corporation to light, “Michael Clayton” does not have such a positive message. It is dark and depressing. Although Michael is discontent with his job, he comes to terms with his dark reality instead of actively addressing it like Erin.

The beginning part of the movie is not that intriguing. Many scenes keep on showing the burden of the life Michael has to put up with. Thankfully, the movie calmly and convincingly tells viewers how Michael has no choice but to change and throws in a surprise as the movies runs toward the end. However, there is no shocking surprise and not much intensity in describing how the hero reveals the conspiracy. In other words, the movie is a thriller without the “thrill” elements. The movie rather puts more weight in depicting how an individual, Michael, changes in the face of reality. Michael is far from a classy lawyer like the ones that appear in other movies with similar stories. The real message here is best described in Arthur’s words: “Something big is about to happen. But, are they ready to accept the truth?”

This is the same in reality in many ways. Although we know the truth, we are not ready to accept it.