Sunday, October 4, 2009

Michael Clayton (2007)

Well, I wasn't bored. Clooney and Swinton were great. But the plot didn't have much tension. The details were deliberately murky for the first 25 minutes, which resulted in inherent suspense, because it was unclear who everyone was. Once that was straightened out and you could recognize the lawyer, client and indian chief, it was fairly predictable. You'll find more surprises in a half hour of Damages.

In the opening minutes, we saw Clooney's Clayton walking to his car, fresh from a round of illegal gambling, weary against the dark night, alone. When he reached for the door handle, I was afraid the car would explode. One sensed that there was danger lurking, even when you couldn't see it. Yet, when actual assasins were unveiled in that same scene later, there was little menace at all. Funny how when the moment rolls around again, it's anticlimatic, not mysterious. The repeat wasn't needed to explain anything. It only served to show how uncomplicated the plot all was from the start. A jigsaw puzzle whose pieces only seemed scrambled from a distance. Film noir exposed to the light of day.

I did leave with questions: what made Michael stop to look at the horses in the first place? Why were those 3, unbridled horses standing out in an open field right off of the highway? Why in the famous confrontation scene with Karen does Michael say he sold Arthur out for $80,000? He never betrayed Arthur. Even if he could have done it legally, I doubt that he would have committed the man -- who seriously needed mental help anyway. Clayton wouldn't have been selling him out, so much as saving him.

When we met Michael, he was telling an angry client that he couldn't get away with a hit-and-run. Michael's integrity was never questioned in the viewer's mind. The fact that it was in his only served as testament to, well, his integrity.

Yes, he was in debt (protecting his brother), but there was no suggestion that he was going to sacrifice Arthur, or even compromise his own values, to pay off that debt. When he told Marty he was not demanding $80,000 in exchange for resolving the problem with Arthur, it was the truth.

Things started off slick, but in the end we learned that Michael was a great guy, with problems more human than gripping.

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