Sunday, October 14, 2007

'Clayton' plays out slowly and confusingly

My freelance review:
The new film "Michael Clayton" aspires to convey a realistic depiction of its title character, a quick thinking but flawed corporate attorney solidly portrayed by George Clooney.

The main story deals with a three billion dollar class action lawsuit against big tobacco and the breakdown of an attorney (good performance from character actor Tom Wilkinson) who's been dedicating his life toward the case -- on the side of big tobacco. Clooney's character is brought on-board as a "fixer."

I was excited to see this movie and to see how the story would play out. But I was quite disappointed to experience how excruciatingly slowly -- and confusingly -- it would play out.

Ultimately, there just wasn't that much of a plot here. What otherwise could have been background details in the story were played out in the foreground in detail. And some of the background details weren't relevant at all to the main story.

This was quite surprising given writer Tony Gilroy's resume, which includes all three of the "Bourne Identity" films.

Gilroy also directed, with this being his directorial debut. He used a time-shifting technique, presumably to bolster the story and its suspense. This technique is usually effective, but only when the underlying story is rich enough to support it.

The film gets kudos for not falling back on big chase scenes and gun fights and that sort of thing, but perhaps this was just too big of next step forward for writer/director Gilroy. While there were plenty of big guns producing the film (including Clooney, Sydney Pollack -- who also appears in the film, and Steven Soderbergh), perhaps some big guns should have been added to the writing team.

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