Michael Clayton – Clooney, Wilkinson, Swinton Shine

Watching George Clooney on screen after seeing our Bollywood bozos like Ajith, Vijay, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra et al prance around like hippopotamuses in heat in movie after movie is like the sight of water to a lost traveler in the vastness of the merciless Sahara.

“Do I look like I am negotiating,” Clooney yells at Tilda Swinton, who as the General Counsel of a large corporation has unsuccessfully tried to have him killed. The confrontation between these two strong characters towards the end is one of the highlights of Michael Clayton.

We missed Michael Clayton at the theaters and finally got around to watching it on our cable “On Demand” service ($4.99) last night, just in time for the Oscars this evening. While we would have liked to watch Michael Clayton in high definition, the HD version was not available and we settled for the standard definition version.

Directed masterfully by Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton excels at many levels – story, acting, tight script and intense attention to detail.

Besides the gripping and complex story, there’s flawless acting by the talented ensemble of George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack. These are thoroughbreds so unlike most of our effete Bollywood stars.

By the way, Tilda Swinton won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar Sunday, February 24, 2008 for Michael Clayton.

While we have seen George Clooney in several movies, this was our first look at Tilda Swinton. And we were impressed.

To start with, Michael Clayton is the gripping story about the movie’s eponymous fixer Michael Clayton (George Clooney) in a New York City law firm, who handles unusual (some of it unethical) tasks for wealthy clients of his firm.

The movie starts with Clooney leaving a gambling den and getting into his gleaming black Mercedes to meet a rich client of his firm involved in a hit-and-run incident.

On the drive back, Clooney stops by the roadside and walk up a small hill to admire some horses. As he stands on the hill near the horses, his car explodes into a fiery ball of flames. Clooney rushes to the car and throws his wallet and some personal possessions into the car.

The movie then goes into flashback, four days earlier when Clooney is asked by his firm to fix things after his law firm colleague and friend Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) drops his clothes and runs naked into a parking lot in the midst of a deposition involving a $3 billion class action suit against his firm’s client, an agriculture giant U North.

While the main story centers around Michael’s work to salvage the ugly situation created by his friend Arthur, the movie also makes some short side-trips (mostly related, a few unrelated) like Michael’s gambling, his relationship with his young son, Arthur’s collusion with the plaintiffs and disturbing peeks into U North general counsel Karen Crowder’s (Tilda Swanton) relentless and ruthless efforts to get things under control.

Since we believe art imitates life and vice versa, it’s sad and depressing to see that there are no limits to the ugly and predatory behavior of large corporations.

We’ve watched Clooney in several movies – Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Syriana (Clooney won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), Good German and now Michael Clayton – and find him an accomplished artist.

Tis true that Clooney is not in the league of Hollywod legends like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson but then few can lay claim to such talent. To watch Brando in On the Waterfront, Streetcar Named Desire or Godfather or Al Pacino in Scarface or Serpico or Jack Nicholson in Chinatown is to rejoice at the majesty of their performances on the screen.

Michael Clayton’s script is tightly written with nary a loose end and an object lesson to our clownish directors in Bollywood and Kollywood.

Michael Clayton left us with the depressing thought of the leap-years that Bollywood has to traverse before it can claim its place under the sun.

6 Responses to "Michael Clayton – Clooney, Wilkinson, Swinton Shine"

  1. gandhiji   September 20, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Just watched it today.. I liked NCFOM and Sweeney Todd much better.. The climax was gripping.. those five minutes fetched her the oscar, I guess… and she threw it away.. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/movies/a130496/swinton-i-gave-my-oscar-away.html?imdb

    Tilda had a much bigger and powerful role in “The Deep End”.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write: I liked NCFOM and Sweeney Todd much better

    Likewise here. NCFOM and Sweeney Todd are in a different class.

  2. beni   December 19, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I didn’t like this movie at all.
    It was depressing and slow. I felt like i was reading a boring corporate thriller book. We walked out half-way through the movie. I don’t like George Clooney

    When will you post more restaurant/food reviews? I really like them.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write above: When will you post more restaurant/food reviews? I really like them.

    We’re coming to Devon Ave again. It’s been three or four years now.

  3. Þórarinsdóttir   December 19, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I am sure that you already know this.. just in case you didn’t..

    “On April 27 ’96,The Dr. J. Jayalalitha Way on Devon Avenue from Broadway to Lakewood Avenue was unveiled & dedicated with an Inter-Faith Prayer and an impressivecommunity rally.”

    Is it still that way, Beni? Or did they rename it to Karunanidhi Veedhi?

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Really? We thought it said M.K.Gandhi Ave. We’ve to check our old photos.

  4. beni   December 19, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I’ve only been to three restaurants on Devon – Mysore Woodlands, Usmania & Tahoora.
    Mysore Woodlands was mediocre but it had super annoying waiters. Usmania was useless. Only Tahoora was any good but I only had sweets there.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    We’ve been to Mysore Woodlands too & the sweet/chaat store opposite to it.

    We thought Mysore Woodlands was fairly decent.

  5. Þórarinsdóttir   December 19, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Further digging lead to

    This is not the first time that Dr Prabhakar has been involved in promoting Jayalalitha’s name in Chicago. In April 1996, he worked with Illinois state Senator Howard Carrol and Chicago’s city council in naming a few blocks on Devon Avenue — the city’s main Indian shopping center — as Jayalalitha Way. According to reports, the street signs were taken off the next year when Jayalalitha’s rival, the DMK’s M Karunanidhi took over as chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

    But I remember seeing that sign.. lucky me!

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    The above Rediff piece mentions: Other prominent leaders whose names appear along the blocks of the avenue include Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, Mother Teresa and Israel’s Golda Meir.

    So, it’s possible we saw Gandhi’s name in the area.

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