Some time ago, in the pre-Oscar season, my attempts to watch Michael Clayton were thwarted. Last night, finally managed to accomplish mission. Billed as a legal thriller, the plot to this movie sounds like a John Grisham novel. UNorth is the evil corporate trying to lie, cheat and murder its way out of a class action law suit brought against it for marketing a carcinogenic weed killer. The case has dragged on for six years and when the lead counsel for the defense (Arthur Eden played by Tom Wilkinson) has a breakdown in Milwaukee, our hero is brought in to save the day because he is the law firm’s ‘fixer’. Eden is manic depressive and has gone of his pills. All attempts by our Mickey (George Clooney) to bring him back to the crooked and narrow fail and he escapes to New York where he goes incommunicado. In this mess, the UNorth legal team, steals Eden’s briefcase, find internal UNorth memos damaging to the defense in his material and finds proof that our lead counsel for the defense was well on his way to switching over to the prosecution. Panic stations are called at UNorth and Eden is murdered at the behest of the UNorth lead counsel.
Meanwhile, Clayton, who was still trying to locate Eden between all the other problems he has, gets suspicious when he figures out that UNorth is suddenly willing to settle after Eden’s supposed suicide. Meeting one of the plaintiffs with whom Eden had set up an appointment that he didn’t make (because he was dead!) only convinces him that something is off. He breaks into Eden’s apartment and finds a stationary bill. At the copy shop he finds Eden has ordered a 1000 copies of the incriminating memos. Clayton’s car is bombed by UNorth hired killers. Fortunately he is not in it at the time and has the presence of mind to toss some personal effects in and buy some time for himself while he is being reported dead.
At UNorth, settlement proposals are being pushed through to the board and Clayton comes back (from the dead) to confront the lead counsel and traps her into confessing and offering him a 10 million payoff. She and the rest of the UNorth brass are arrested and our hero rides off into the New York night in a taxi.
So far, so Grisham. Things that made this movie amazing for me.
– The dialogue… the opening dialogue of this movie ranks right up there with the Devil’s Advocate lot.
– The characterisation… The good guys are not so good – Clooney is a recovering gambling addict and Eden is clearly barking mad. The bad guys are not so bad either. Swindon (who plays the lead counsel) manages to make it look like she is doing all these evil things for the greater good. All on the basis of her acting – we’re not offered any personal background to her. So can’t blame abusive parents and other such things. Amazing. The minor characters – Clayton’s family, the plaintiff, the loan shark – all beautifully portrayed. So much story told with such brevity. Nice, nice.
– The sequence in which the story is told. Its not really linear, but unlike with some of the other folks that seem to do it because its fashionable, it really fits for this movie.
Verdict for this movie. Yes.
Verdict for Clooney. YesYessYessYesss. Yesssssssss. (to be read out aloud as if you were Meg Ryan in the restaurant scene)