A2P Cinema 100 Films of the Aughts
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MICHAEL CLAYTON
2007 - Tony Gilroy - United States
52

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Michael Clayton opens with a stylish, tone-setting montage of images in an empty law office with accompanying voice-over. The film is rooted in the kind of intelligent, psychological, socially-charged work that Hollywood consistently made during the 1970s. This is a multi-layered character film, one that reveals itself and its characters as it develops. It rewards attentive audiences. It builds a tension and a sense of moral ambiguity. Outside of the opening montage, the attention is almost solely on the performances. This is a quintessential actor film and it has the performances to match. Right from his star-entrance to his final closeup in the taxi, George Clooney really shines in a role that is perfectly suited for his stardom. He captures the subdued heart and excellence of the film, and Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton give the film its emotional force. Of course credit must also go to writer-director Tony Gilroy for a brilliant script and skillful direction. The essence of Michael Clayton is a loss of focus when faced with the pressure of corporate and big business decision. The shining moment comes in a visually metaphoric moment (which is played in early in the film and then continued after revealing the moments leading toward it) when Clooney discovers a subconsciously recognizable image of horses roaming atop a hill. It is at this moment he finally sees in focus and it ultimately saves his life (both from death and from moral conflict). Michael Clayton is a highly absorbing character-driven thriller and it is encouraging to see films like this still being made in Hollywood studios.
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