Sunday, February 24, 2008

From the Archive: "Michael Clayton" DVD Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original DVD Review of “Michael Clayton”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Michael Clayton”
DVD Review originally published February 24th, 2008

“Do I look like I’m negotiating?”

Michael Clayton tells the story of, obviously, Michael Clayton (George Clooney).  He’s an attorney and former gambling addict employed by a prestigious law firm in New York as a “fixer,” someone who rectifies difficult situations, often through unconventional or expedient methods.  His company has been backing a company called UNorth on a lawsuit that’s lasted over a decade.  When one of the senior partners, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) seemingly goes crazy and strips nude in a boardroom, Michael is called in to fix the situation.  Edens is saying that the world he and Michael inhabit is evil and corrupt, and that UNorth must be stopped.

That’s all I care to tell you about the plot.  This a rubik’s cube of a plot, and the pieces don’t come together until the final minutes.  And it’s a joy to watch.  You’ll have to think hard, and maybe even watch the movie a few times over, but the end result is extremely rewarding.  Not knowing much about the plot going in is a benefit, because discovering the story is part of what makes this film so good.

But the film has much more than a good plot going for it.  This world is inhabited by very rich characters.  Michael is going through a bit of a crisis of conscious throughout the film, and George Clooney’s phenomenal performance illustrates this quite well.  His Oscar nomination was well-deserved (but not enough to beat good ol’ Daniel Day).  You can see the depth of the character in his eyes; Clooney definitely gets into the mind of this character, and gets the audience inside the man’s head as well.         

Tom Wilkinson, however, is even better as Arthur Edens, the lawyer who seems to go crazy, but might just have a point.  He delivers the top-notch dialogue at a lightning-quick pace, and it’s a joy to watch.  He’s crazy and goofy, but we feel for him.    His Oscar nomination was also well-deserved, but I don’t think it has the power to beat Javier Bardem.  Tilda Swinton gives a good performance as the antagonist of the film; she’s creepy and deranged.  Oscar nomination worthy?  Not really.  Sadly, she’s the only one of the three leads with a real shot at winning.

The film’s script is excellent.  While watching it, you have to say to yourself ‘should dialogue be allowed to be this good?’  Some of the exchanges are just brilliant, and as I mentioned above, the complex and multi-layered plot all comes together in an extremely intelligent way.  Tony Gilroy (who also wrote the film, as well as the Bourne Trilogy) proves he can direct a film; there’s a tense air surrounding the whole thing, and much of that comes from the direction.

Also of note is the score by James Newton Howard.  Mostly ambiance, it really ups the tension of the film.  This isn’t a score I’d want to listen to on its own, but in the context of the film, it’s quite good.
“Michael Clayton” is a good statement about corruption and greed in today’s world, and what the price of being honest sometimes is.  But at the end of the movie, you feel uplifted by this one man’s actions.  He brings justice to an unjust situation, and perhaps redeems his own soul, too.

Film Rating: A-


On DVD, the film is just as good.  The ability to stop, rewind, and chat with others while viewing make it a bit more accessible.  The anamorphic-widescreen video presented on this disc is overall quite good.  Detail is very sharp throughout, and colors are accurate and vibrant on the whole.  Contrast could be better, especially in dark scenes, and there’s an overly-digital glare on some shots that causes a strange fuzziness.  But this isn’t a particularly visual film, and for what it is, the video is completely serviceable.

The audio is just as good.  This movie’s all about dialogue, with the music never overpowering.  Everything is fairly crisp and well-done, but given how dialogue-driven this movie is, the audio won’t blow you away.

Video Rating: 7.5/10
Audio Rating: 7.5/10


Where this disc lacks is on the extras.  Considering the film is up for 7 Academy Awards, I would think we’d be getting more here.  Things start with a commentary by writer/director Tony Gilroy and his brother John, who edited the film.  Tony talks the most, but both provide interesting tidbits on the project.  It’s a good listen, and you learn that this was obviously a labor of love for Tony.

There’s also 3 deleted scenes that are best left on the cutting room floor.  They’re presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, and in bad quality.  You can view the scenes with commentary, if you so choose.  And that’s it.  Commentary and deleted scenes.  I would have liked to see at least one audio or video based feature with Clooney and the other actors.  The commentary is good, but I was left wanting more.

I liked the menus on this disc; they are static and non-moving, but feature the original, super-cool poster.  It’s a nice touch.

Extras and Presentation Rating: 4/10


At least rent the movie; it’s quite a good watch, and while the critical acclaim and Best Picture nomination might be a bit much, it is one of the best dialogue-driven thrillers in years.    

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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