Michael Clayton

First off, I'm officially a wuss. I went for a jog yesterday here in Northeast Florida and it was about 45 degrees outside. The wind was whipping but the sun was out. By all estimations, that's a tremendous Oregon day for late February.

But I was coooolllllldddddd, man! Freezing I tell you. This climate's got me all turned around.

On Monday I caught an excellent film in Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton. The film succeeds on all levels. It's a tight little thriller filled with compelling performances. It's a great little commentary on the nature of conscience and the definition of self. And it's a breath of fresh air in a time when so many of this country's corporate behemoths are flagrantly pissing all over the public trust.

Let me begin by saying there is a vocal contingent out there that states that corporations have no responsibility to the American public--that they are only beholding to their shareholders. I say that is bullshit. I think that if you hope to profit from a population of people, you have to partner with them and, in some cases, protect them from a dangerous product. Michael Clayton focuses on a class-action suit against a huge agricultural company called u-north, whose products are known dangerous carcinogens. U-north's scientists send a memo touting the product's relative danger to the consumer and mention the idea of scrapping the pesticide and creating a new one from scratch, in the process losing millions in R & D.

The company pushes forward with their product, people get sick and die and soon they are facing a 3 billion dollar lawsuit. Memo to corporate executives: not only is it the right thing to do to protect the people that will be affected by your product, but often it is the more intelligent business decision! Go back to the drawing board if you need to, but you're doing business in the most litigious country in the world. Do you not think that our citizens won't make you pay if you poison them?

Sheesh. Rant over...

George Clooney is excellent here. There are two dialogue-free scenes in which we see his character evolving--one on a hillside with a trio of gentle horses and another as he rides in a cab during the closing credits. They are powerful, subtle scenes that illustrate Clooney's talent as an actor. His scrambling in the early scenes to fix problems for his firm's clients is juxtaposed nicely with his time on camera with Tom Wilkinson (super scene stealer) and the epiphany he has about just how evil u-north really is.

Wilkinson got shafted at the Academy Awards. His is one of the most compelling performances I've seen on film in years. He goes high and low with suck striking plausibility that you just want to ram one of those mood pills down his gullet. The only problem is, the man is a soaring, radical genius when he's off his meds so you can't justify it. Think of all the bright, creative kids out there that we've turned to zombies with drugs, masking the gifts that these individuals could bring to our society. I agree that mood-altering drugs have their place in society--for those that could be a threat to themselves or others. But we over-prescribe in this country and I can't help but think about what's lost in all of that when I see a character like Arthur Edens.

Sheesh. Rant over...

Gilroy is steady here. The film moves very well and I like that the dominant color scheme is corporate black and navy blue. The structure is cool--a nonlinear approach that increases tension and allows for steady character development.

Swinton is fine in the pair of extended scenes she's given here, but her performance is far, far from Oscar-worthy and I think she knew it in her flippant and, admittedly, humorous speech. She's good, but her performance here is average...

Look at it folks, if you haven't yet. This weekend we get Semi-Pro, another Will Ferrel laugh-fest that I'll wait for on DVD. Ick. I think I'll be watching Dune come Saturday night...

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