Michael Clayton is a masterful piece of film making. From the open sequence, which so effectively sets the tone for the whole piece and gets the adrenalin running, to the almost anti-climactic yet completely satisfying ending, Michael Clayton grips you and doesn’t let go. It does all this despite having a fairly run-of-the-mill and very predictable story. That’s part of what made Michael Clayton so fascinating to watch.
The story of Michael Clayton is textbook, television lawyer, melodrama. You will not be shocked or surprised by any “twist” or “turn” the film follows. The characters are all standard. We’ve seen this a hundred times before. What makes Michael Clayton so interesting is how the film makers take this and make it so riveting.
Director Tony Gilroy makes a very impressive debut with this potboiler. He crafts it in such a way that you can’t take your eyes off it. He feeds us just enough to wet our appetite without overwhelming us. It’s a study in how to shoot this kind of drama. There really is so little to work with here that it’s amazing that they have managed to craft this thing so wonderfully and make it so fascinating. Even though I was being lead down the garden path, I enjoyed every step.
Gilroy also elicits strong performances out of a strong cast. I don’t know if that is really much of an accomplishment since everyone in this thing is quite good at what they do. Most interesting to watch is Clooney who has really built a performance here that proves his Oscar win was no fluke. The final scene in the cab is worthy of a nomination in and of itself.
Michael Clayton is gripping. I love how it builds to what should be a very clichéd television wrap-it-all-up-nicely ending and yet it feels so very personal and powerful. They’ve raised themselves above the material here and made something truly fascinating to watch.