Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Written and Directed by Tony Gilroy
Starring George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack

This Friday, Tony Gilroy's follow up to the Oscar nominated MICHAEL CLAYTON, DUPLICITY, hits theatres. Before Black Sheep takes a look at the repairing of Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, we would like to look back at Gilroy's thrilling directorial debut.

This is a movie about a man, precisely a man named Michael Clayton (George Clooney). The man behind the man is writer/director, Gilroy, (the man behind the words of another famous man you may know as the moniker of the Bourne series) and he is not the least bit interested in pandering to his first audience as a director. Each early scene establishes characteristics of Mr. Clayton’s personality that none of us would have necessarily expected. What we’re given is an intriguing, if not somewhat broken man, caught at a pivotal time in his life. The action does start shortly after all this establishment and while I may not have known Mr. Clayton to begin with, I certainly finished by wanting to know more.

Clayton is a lawyer who no longer litigates in a courtroom but whose major purpose is to clean up messes made by other lawyers in the firm that employs him. Originally, Clooney wanted to direct this project and had refused to star in it if it were to be directed by a first time director. Gilroy somehow convinced him of otherwise and it’s a very good thing he did. Clooney’s portrayal of Clayton is subtle and understated, certainly one of his finest. He is also surrounded by fiercely talented performances by Tom Wilkinson as a man on the brink of delusion and Tilda Swinton in an Oscar-winning performance as a corporate head who can barely keep that head above water. And while it is certainly the least showy performance, Sydney Pollack's turn as Clayton's boss should not go unnoticed as it was his last performance before his death last year.

Gilroy is one of the smartest writers in Hollywood these days and with MICHAEL CLAYTON, he reintroduces himself as an impressively meticulous director, crafting an intelligent thriller that brings more attention to the hero than most films do. By doing so, he makes it apparent that heroes are humans too and there is always more going on that you don’t know a thing about. I have now seen the film three times and it only gets better.

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