Click to read about the best places to eat on campus, freshman packing tips, and how to keep in touch with friends.

‘Clayton’: Clooney, cancer, and corporate greed

To put it simply, Michael Clayton is the closest that American film has gotten to successfully resurrecting the intelligent and rebellious spirit of 1970’s cinema. In this 119-minute display of extreme tension, there are echoes of great films such as Sidney Lumet’s Network and Norman Jewison’s …And Justice For All.

The story goes like this: Kenner, Bach & Ledeen is a high-class corporate law firm celebrating their many billing hours with U/North – a gargantuan company dealing with a $3 billion class-action lawsuit involving upstate New York farmers and their complaints that U/North’s cancer-causing weed killer has gotten into their water supply. Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) is the manic and brilliant lawyer from Kenner, Bach & Ledeen defending U/North. He neglects to take his medication and experiences an epiphany in which he realizes that he is a proverbial cog in the wheel of an evil machine.

“I am Shiva, God of Death,” Edens said.

Michael Clayton (George Clooney), Edens’ old friend, is called in to “fix” the situation. However, Edens escapes Clayton’s control and begins building a case against U/North. All hell proceeds to break loose.

The character of Clayton is rich and deep. He is divorced and a somewhat distant father. He has a history of gambling. Plus, a failed restaurant/bar has left him tied to the dirty work of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. Consequently, his confliction is palpable.

Edens’ character is even more intense. His actual meltdown, in which he begins to strip during a filmed meeting, is incredibly haunting. Wilkinson’s performance undoubtedly justifies a “Best Supporting Actor” nomination this year, but perhaps writer/director Tony Gilroy deserves the most praise.

Gilroy is mainly known for writing The Bourne Identity films, but Michael Clayton succeeds on more levels. It is darker and more brooding. The intricate screenplay sheds light on the shadowy side of big business with unshakable realism, while direction is a demonstration in restraint and discipline.

Even the technical aspects of Michael Clayton contribute to the crisp and lacerating final product. The symmetrical cinematography of Robert Elswit, A.S.C. perfectly reflects the calculating world of law firms and corporate greed. The lighting, featuring the muted tones of towering New York skyscrapers, is cold and ominous.

James Newton Howard’s score relentlessly builds as the pressure mounts. Like most tasteful dramas, the music refuses to condescendingly swell at key emotional moments. Instead, it pulses. Even the credit sequence is succinct and minimal. In short, Michael Clayton is a top-notch production in almost every way.

This film’s only drawback may be its dry subject matter. However, fans of more action-oriented movies may be interested in Michael Clayton simply because it contains one of the coldest murder scenes ever depicted.


RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes