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"Michael Clayton"

Not much to say about cruises at the moment – they’re over for this year – so on to other topics, and a return to another of my great interests, the movies.

On Saturday we went to see ‘Michael Clayton’, the new film starring George Clooney. It’s one of Clooney’s serious works, more like Syriana and Good Night & Good Luck than the ‘Ocean’s n‘. Clooney plays the eponymous character – a lawyer with a major New York law firm, who is in fact their ‘fixer’. He’s a cop to his fellow lawyers, but a lawyer to the cops; he works in the middle ground between law enforcement and the legal profession, fixing things to the advantage of his firm, their clients, and (if possible) third parties such as the police. He is very good at his job, but apparently not at anything else: he is divorced, not the best parent, he is fighting an addiction to gambling, and he has a failed business venture. So we are (purportedly) anchored in reality.

During the course of the film we see him at work as he attempts to fix problems between his firm and a major client. The firm is defending the client in a law suit for $3 Billion, and as the film progresses we learn that the plaintiffs have a very good case and ought to win. However, this is not a legal drama – it is set in that environment but the focus of the film is the character himself, as he performs the mental gymnastics he must in order to separate his appallingly amoral work from his personal problems and later from his conscience. By the end of the film he may have changed – we are not quite certain, there is a suggeston that he won a few major personal victories – and the lives of all those around him have been deeply affected by the fallout from the fixing he has done, and others’ response to it.

The performances are uniformly excellent, including Tom Wilkinson and Sidney Pollack, but I have to make especial mention of Tilda Swinton. She plays a character who is totally out of her depth as Chief Council of a major corporation, and by the end of the film all her nightmares – personal as well as professional – have come to pass. The final scene, with her shuddering as absolute disaster crashes around her, is rivetting.

This film is an excellent example of intelligent adult film-making.

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