Film Review: Michael Clayton (2007)

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.

Rating: 4/5

Film Review: In the Heat of the Night (1967)

There were several legendary films to come out of 1967, but the two best known by audiences today, Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, did not take home the Academy’s Best Picture statuette.  To those who have not seen this social thriller, awarding the coveted prize to In the Heat of the Night might seem questionable.  But after watching the film’s powerful study of racism in the ’60s, it becomes clear that it best represents that year.

It tells a story of a black police officer visiting a small town in the south from his home in Pennsylvania.  His name is Virgil Tibbs and he happened to be around when a murder victim was discovered late at night in Sparta, Mississippi.  Being one of Philadelphia’s leading homicide investigators, he decides to stay just a little longer.  As he assists the town’s hot-tempered sheriff in the pursuit of the killer, Tibbs is met with constant prejudice from both the police and the townspeople.

Overtime, Virgil Tibbs has become one of the most memorable heroes in the history of the movies.  His persecution was something that every African American could relate to at that time, and his actions set an example for them as well.  This is one of the reasons that Tibbs has been ranked 19th on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movie Heroes of All Time.

Thanks to Poitier’s firm performance, In the Heat of the Night is difficult to forget.  Not only is this a good film, but it is also an important one.  It documents a shameful time in our country’s history that should not be ignored or forgotten.  When taking this into consideration, there is no better reason for a movie to win Best Picture.

Rating: 4/5

Film Review: The Next Three Days (2010)

A married couple is alone in their home with their young son when a large group of policemen break into their living room.  Before they even know what happened, the wife is arrested for murder.  Three years later, the wife is still in prison and has made an attempt at suicide.

Meanwhile, the boy, who now attends elementary school, is growing without the care of his mother.  The father believes that his wife is innocent, and he manages to continue life with very few opportunities to see her.  But when he learns that his spouse is being transferred to a distant prison facility, the troubled community college teacher decides that he can no longer see his wife suffer.

Interviewing an escaped convict (played by Liam Neeson), watching YouTube videos to learn to pick locks, and purchasing forged passports, he prepares in every possible way for the chance to free her.  But what if his wife did murder as she was accused of? The powerful part of The Next Three Days is that the man doesn’t know that his wife is innocent, but instead, he relies on who he knows she is; and he knows without a doubt that the woman he married isn’t a murderer.

There are precious moments in this wonderful action thriller when we are shown, thanks to great performances, the complicated emotions of the characters and the motives behind their actions.  What we seem to uncover is that these people are very much like us.  And for this reason, the audience cares about John Brennan and his family.

Our attachment to the Brennan family makes each plot twist and moment of suspense more dramatic than the average action film.  This makes the film entertaining and moving, but it is usually pointed out by the movie’s critics that the story is too unbelievable.  I too doubt that such events could take place, however, I found the realistic characters to be enough to balance any absurdity.

The Next Three Days is not action-packed, but there is great suspense. It seems to last forever, but it proves to be completely worth it.  I honestly did not expect such a seemingly average thriller to be so memorable.

Rating: 4.5/5