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TIFF! Copernicus Renders A Verdict On George Clooney In MICHAEL CLAYTON!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Now that certain films are screening at festivals, I’m going to jump in and start talking about the fall movies. It’s nice to have entertainment for adults storming the multiplex again, and this is always my favorite time of year. I saw this one last week, and I’m curious to see what Copernicus makes of it, and how it does at the fest overall:

We know Tony Gilroy can write like the devil. The Bourne movies have some of the best scripts of any thrillers, spy or otherwise. But hallelujah, he can direct too. He directed MICHAEL CLAYTON from his own script about a "fixer" (George Clooney) who must reign in an old friend (Tom Wilkinson) who's gone off the reservation and threatens to undermine a billion-dollar lawsuit. Soon Clayton is torn between his buddy and his own interests, and that of his company. He's deep into a murky world where money and power eclipse all else, and if you don't toe the line you are headed for certain ruination. In PULP FICTION parlance, the titular character is "the Wolf," only here he's not quite as mythic. In fact, he has real problems of his own. He's saddled with debt from a failed restaurant venture with his alcoholic brother, he's divorced, and he's got a bit of a gambling problem too. He's a man who sold his soul long ago, but has already spent the money. It is nice to see Clooney play a mortal man for once, even if you can't help but think when he is at his lowest point, "Dude, you still look like George Clooney!" Still, his performance is convincing enough to (mostly) convince you that he has both real problems and real skill. Even better, Tom Wilkinson gives a standout performance as the lawyer who is unstable in terms of both loyalty and sanity. It seems harder to play half-crazy than cranked-up nutbar, but he pulls it off. One minute he's stripping naked in a deposition room, and the next he's quoting the minutiae of obscure law statutes. Equally compelling in a more straight-ahead role as the company boss is the always outstanding Sydney Pollack. He's avuncular with a shade of menace, and the perfect kind of commanding presence called for when you need someone who is both friendly and threatening. Rounding out the cast is Tilda Swinton, playing a lawyer who somewhat reluctantly gets down in the dirt and can't quite find her way out. Her performance is solid, even if she's a bit overshadowed by the other heavyweights here. The soft spot in MICHAEL CLAYTON is that it is straight-up, unabashedly Hollywood. Gilroy knows what the audience wants and he serves it up on a fine silver platter. The plot is a bit twisty, but it is really only a couple of half-turns that are mostly telegraphed. Still, Gilroy cleverly disguises one by having it occur out of order, then telling the rest of the story in flashback. He keeps things lively, yet fairly well restrained. Even when a character is supposed to be evil they are never over the top -- we understand exactly why they do the things they do. And in fact most characters are facing problems of their own creation. Even those internal struggles are not overwrought -- Clayton's gambling problem is alluded to, but not dwelled upon, and there are no tearful confessionals out of anyone. Overall, MICHAEL CLAYTON is solid, if forgettable, big-budget entertainment. If you like thrillers set in the dark underworld of multinational law firms, or any of the leads, then give it a shot. But more than anything, I'm happy to see another fine writer successfully make the leap into the director's chair.
Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 8, 2007, 11:23 p.m. CST

    testing 1 2 3

    by xega


  • Sept. 8, 2007, 11:27 p.m. CST


    by Midol Boy

    I thought this was going to be one of those "important" movies. Oh, well.

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 12:22 a.m. CST

    Michael Clayton is overrated!!!

    by Darth Philbin

    I would much rather have Keyshawn Johnson or Joe Jurevicius back. But, he's te best we got. GO BUCS!!!

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 1:24 a.m. CST

    WFT is with the heavy plot spoilers???

    by antonphd

    WFT is with the heavy plot spoilers???

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 1:30 a.m. CST


    by Sappers Forward

    Sounds like it could be another movie I'll never see. Unless bound, gagged, and teabagged by large inmates that just escaped from a federal penitentiary. What?

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 3:05 a.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    spoilers? I thought this review did an amazing job of describing the elements of the film without giving anything away that would detract from a first viewing. <p>did you read the same review? or did you put shrooms in your cheerios again?

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 6:44 a.m. CST

    Bad ass trailer for this movie.

    by Russman

    hopefully it'll be cool.

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 8:26 a.m. CST


    by floydtheater07

    They filmed a scene for this movie about 15 minutes from my house. 'Twas exciting, as that does not happen around here very often.

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 12:54 p.m. CST

    If George Clooney is so into liberal causes...

    by Uncapie

    ...he should check out his own backyard at Warner Brothers at That's some heavy duty stuff going on at Warner Brothers that's handling this film where his production office is.

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 1:32 p.m. CST

    Did EW say Clooney directed this?

    by Devastating

    ...Or am I just dyslexic?

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 3:34 p.m. CST

    Male Trifecta

    by AllieJamison

    I don't mind the weak sides of this film and its plot. It's combined man power will put me into delirium anyway. I hope Sydney Pollack is well...may god bless him.

  • Sept. 9, 2007, 4:58 p.m. CST

    In totally unrelated news

    by Charlie Murphy

    Shoot em Up only grossed like six million bucks this weekend, which would certainly qualify as a disappointment in my book. as for this michael clayton flick, i've seen the trailer a few times now, and i probably won't check it out. not that it looks bad or anything... it just doesn't strike me as "must see"

  • Sept. 10, 2007, 12:42 a.m. CST

    George Clooney is such a media darling

    by thevision

    that he doesn't have to make films people actually pay to watch. Other than Perfect Storm and the first two Oceans films, his other flicks haven't exactly lit up the box office. Oceans 13 is considered a disappointment. Clooney loves the 70s era of films and doesn't care for today's commercial box office. You'll never see George at Comic Con.

  • Sept. 10, 2007, 1:42 a.m. CST

    Tom Wilkinson is the shit

    by DirkD13"

    One of the UK's finest imho. His name alone makes this worth watching.