Sunday, March 20, 2011
After my initial dis-orientation I settled down and just watched. It is such a good thriller that in hind sight not knowing the plot was a good thing. Right throughout I kept wondering where it was going and what was happening. It isn't a complex plot but there are many twists and turns that I found myself trying to figure it all out. This marks is being above the average because a thriller that is to easy to follow, or too easy to figure out, becomes boring and ultimately a pointless watch. Michael Clayton had me guessing right to the end.
In many respects it is a simple plot but George Clooney plays a guy who the viewer is never sure of. Is he a good guy or bad? Or both. As a character he is somewhat ambiguous as you never like or dislike him. It is a unique achievement within a character. Tilda Swindon is her usual tough no nonsense self and tailor made for the role. She is somewhat type cast for she is unfortunate in having a face that just wouldn't work playing a likeable character ( think Burn without Reading and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example ).
Tom Wilkinson though for me is the stand out. He plays a very talented but bi-polar lawyer who decides to go off his medication. Initially we don't find out why but as Clooney digs deeper into events it becomes apparent. Wilkinson is just outstanding as a man with a mental condition. He looks the part well with dishevelled hair and an ambling gait. But most of all he genuinely looks as if he is a man discovering the world for the first time. It is a very good performance, and while the movie is littered with good ones, his is the stand out.
Clooney as Clayton is very good to. As stated he is a character you are never sure of and by the end of the movie you still feel the same way. Right throughout there are refences to his job and what he does but it is never really explained in clear language. It is more through insult and inuendo that we realise he is a clean up man with a somewhat dirty job. He is good at it but not a popular person for it. He is something of an outsider amongst his peers. The movie also has a sub-plot in that Clooney as Clayton had tried to open a bar but it failed and he owes money to the wrong people. It ties into Clayton's job as he is getting sick of the role he is playing and is trying to set himself up with an 'out'.
The basic plot revolves around Wilkinson's character who finds the firm he works for, and the case he has worked on for years, is essentially covering up something. We don't find out until about two thirds of the way into the movie what it is. Even when we do there is much to discover. This is such a good thriller in that it emulates the proverbial onion in slowly revealing things as each layer is peeled away. It is never slow and builds momentum well, and you are forever trying to guess what is going on.
One scene really threw me. Clayton is the recipient of a car bomb. By that stage he has realised how big things are and that it has led to murder. When his car goes up he fakes his own death and goes on the run. He had just made a deal with his employers and borrowed money to cover his bar debts and I thought that was the end of him and the movie. But no! Clayton re-surfaces just as Swinton is closing a huge billion dollar deal and is confronted by Clayton who she had tried to have killed ( the car bomb ). He tells her he'll keep quiet for ten million dollars which she agrees to. Clayton then pulls out a phone that was on for the police to listen in on. End of story. The film ends with Clayton riding around aimlesly in a taxi.
This is as good a thriller as you will ever see. All through it you wonder what is going on but it never gets tangled. Towards the end all is revealed and you can look back and see how things had led to the finale. It really is well made and constructed as nothing is given away or made too obvious. The cast is excellent. Clooney as the lead is superb as a man who you are ambivalent about. He isn't a nice guy nor is he a bad one. What is he actually? We are never really allowed to find out and that is what his job entales, a sort of shadow figure, and Clooney plays it well. Tilda Swinton is good. At times her character falters as her self confidence slips as she realises the depths she will plunge to in achieving her goals. But Wilkinson is the stand out, and for no other reason this movie should be seen for his performance.
Highly recommended. A thriller with real punch that lasts to the end. You will not regret watching it and you will think about for some time afterwards. In fact you won't forget it at all and file it way as one of the best thrillers you have seen. Guaranteed!!
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