Michael Clayton is the ‘fixer’ for a New York law firm engaged in a class-action law suit, when one of the firm’s legendary attorneys uncovers evidence that they are on the “wrong side.” Clayton, brought to life by one of today’s finest actors, George Clooney, is cool and intelligent, but thanks to Clooney, a softer side is subtly revealed. Accompanying him are actors Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and the late Sydney Pollack. Wilkinson is the attorney who loses his job and eventually, his life, after making a vital discovery; it is an Oscar-worthy performance. Swinton (also known as the White Witch in the Narnia movies) actually did win an Oscar for her bit as a lawyer opposing the actions of Wilkinson.
Clooney’s poise makes for the best performance in the bunch, but Michael Clayton boasts more than good acting. Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut is pulse-pounding and above all, impressive as a first-rate paranoia thriller. The striking score, the abundance of blue and gray, and the building suspense create a wonderfully ominous tone. It is this tone that makes the whole picture stand out among other thrillers. Sharp dialogue is common here, as well as a truck-load of details. Every member of the audience who wants to get his/her money’s worth out of this film will have to pay attention. While the movie is pitch-perfect, it moves rapidly and it can be easy to fall behind. Keep up and you’ll be happy that you were along for the ride.
Michael Clayton never really had a chance of winning Best Picture at the 2007 Oscars, especially over two masterpieces as incredible as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Nonetheless, it was nominated because it was well-made, and should not be missed. It will always be a favorite to those who love movies that require them to think and be fully alert.
“I see the worst in people. I don’t need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I’ve built my hatreds up over the years, little by little…”
These are the words of Daniel Plainview. He arrived at the small California community of Little Boston in 1907 in search of somewhere to drill for oil. Accompanying him is his son, H.W., whom he keeps by his side constantly. Each day, he brings H.W. along to show him the ways of his trade. Not only is he a slick businessman, but he is also an ambitious one, and everything seems to be going right for him until disaster strikes during drilling one day. This event is the breaking point for Plainview, who then finds it near impossible to keep his temper concealed. It is only then that we see the man as he really is.
In a vivid Oscar-winning performance, Daniel Day-Lewis embodies the character of Plainview. On the opposite side is Paul Dano depicting the foolish pastor who the oil man claims as his enemy. Both are great performances, but they are not all that captivates those who enter into this film. The expansive desert setting, the chilling musical score, and the wonderful direction evoke just the right feelings from the audience. Even though it can be received as entertainment, it is also a great work of art. If it had not been pitted against the Coen’s No Country for Old Men in 2007’s Best Picture race, there is no doubt in my mind that it could have nabbed the award.
Even without a statuette, There Will Be Blood is an instant classic. Most filmmakers might have been tempted to make a conventional Hollywood drama or action thriller when given the source material of Upton Sinclair’s Oil!. I am certainly glad that director Anderson made it the way he did. His atmospheric epic seems to have taken some lessons in characterization from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s dark, grimy The Wages of Fear. When considering this, it is no wonder I enjoyed it so much.