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Movie Review

Michael Clayton

MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual dialogue

Reviewed by: Jeanne Sockwell McRorey
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Thriller, Drama
Length:
1 hr. 59 min.
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
October 12, 2007 (wide)
October 5, 2007 (limited)
Featuring: George Clooney, Sean Cullen, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Michael O'Keefe, Ken Howard, Denis O'Hare, Robert Prescott, Austin Williams, Merritt Wever, David Lansbury, Bill Raymond, David Zayas, Skipp Sudduth
Director: Tony Gilroy (“The Bourne Supremacy” / “The Bourne Identity” / “Armageddon”)
Producer: Steve Samuels, George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

“The Truth Can Be Adjusted.”

Proverbs 6:16-19 says it all:

“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him. These are: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

“Michael Clayton” covers every one of them.

Adults only on this one. The R-rating is well deserved for violence, STRONG language, adult content. The first scenes cannot be missed, so don’t tarry at the concession stand and don’t plan on leaving for the next 2 hours. And, stay for the first part of the ending credits, because the actual film continues for a bit.

THE TRUTH CAN BE ADJUSTED is the tagline for George Cooney’s (“Ocean Eleven,” “…Twelve” and “…Thirteen,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) character Michael Clayton. He is a top-notch lawyer with a high-profile law firm, but for the last 15-odd years has been the company “fixer”—he cleans-up messy details of the firm’s clients whether it be “shoplifting wives to bent congressmen.” A janitor, basically.

We meet the movie’s namesake in present time and then go back 4 months. We find out how Michael’s life has disintegrated: divorce and debt, sibling turmoil, plus pressure on the job to be everything to everybody.

Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Importance of Being Earnest”) is senior litigating partner at Kenner, Bach and Ledeen. Edens has discovered a document that had been lost in the shuffle of papers during the 8-year litigation with their client U-North. This company has Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “The Beach”), their powerful and unscrupulous in-house counsel. 450 people convinced that the company is responsible for sickness and many deaths are suing u-North for a mega-million dollar settlement. Arthur is, we discover, bipolar and currently off his meds. He is engaged in the legal proceedings with the clients and “snaps”—goes into uncontrolled rambling of the case and suddenly, he strips off all of his clothes. This is recorded on camera (camera-phone?) and sent to the firm. Michael is sent to “fix this problem.”

It’s a downhill spiral from here. Not the movie; the characters IN the movie. The movie is shot in very dark tones. Each character has their demons and we have a front seat to big business corruption, deceit, bribery, and all general descriptions of rottenness. Karen talks of “getting rid of” problems (people) like she’s ordering a grocery list. She has the art of deception so fine-tuned it is basically who she is. Michael is deep in doom for family, job and his loan shark. He knows he can handle everything because he has done it for so long. But now he’s breaking down along with his world.

It is always heartwarming to see a character played so well that you actually wish you could help. George Clooney carries this movie, but Tom Wilkerson is the one to watch for a nomination for an award for his character.

Language is the most objectionable part of the movie. The f-word is used as an adjective. In the strip scene, body parts are blurred. Karen dresses before you (tastefully) as she prepares for dissertation.

Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” Here, I believe Art imitates Life. Success in life is a wonderful thing to achieve. But if you’ve lost your Soul getting there, it is quite a disillusion.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Positive—This is a very subtle work of cinematic art, with Clooney carrying the film as a marginal lawyer, in debt, who has enough of a conscience to try to get to the bottom of some perplexing and tragic events and find the culprit. The script moves the action a bit slowly sometimes, but the tension between the good and bad is definitely there, and the story slowly comes into fulness as we learn about Arthur, played so brilliantly and impeccably by the always capable Tom Wilkinson and the amazingly skillful George Clooney. This is a good movie for the mature audience.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
Halyna Barannik, age 61
Negative—The most difficult issue with this film is the language, the F-word is used constantly and liberally. After that, it is a S-L-O-W one. It takes 3/4 of the movie to begin to get to the point then the buildup leads us to a letdown. I truly was waiting for something a little more involved and intricate. Ice Age had more suspense and moved faster than this one. I guess I’m spoiled from movies like “Gorky Park” and “Smiley’s People.” Too bad too because Clooney is excellent in this and he is not really one of my favorites being rather one dimensional as an actor. It is interesting that the characters and plot are about a lot of immoral choices that are blatantly unlawful yet the ending seems to try to redeem. Well, maybe I missed something, maybe it was just revenge. Anyhow, wait for the DVD, but don’t rent it, borrow it. As the reviewer said, this is a darkly done film, the underbelly of corporate shinanigans, anything for a buck. James 3:16 explains it this way, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Bob MacLean, age 58
Negative—“Michael Clayton,” typical of a sort of suspense drama. Dragged on and on sometimes. THE BAD—you don’t have to see a sex scene to become severely polluted. A person can tell you a vivid story and defile you just as much. There is an unnavoidable story told by the older man (main character alongside George Clooney) who speaks out of his very immoral life of a recent escapade with 'two Lithuanian broads s****g my ***) He goes on an on about it, and refers to it more than once. If I had known this was in the film I would have left it alone.

Being separate from the world involves some decisions. Being free of sins deep polluting effects does not simply involve a cutesy “sorry Jesus,” and then back you are in the muck for more the next film. I’m sure many of you have tried that. How’d it work for you?! Being clean and staying in a spiritual state prepared for heaven and glory takes separation from things that can severely pollute. This film is one that does just that—it will seduce and pollute you. Hey, but you’ll be distracted for an evening of pleasure and mystery. But then isn’t that what life is about? Just killing time wading purposefully into the muck, self indulgent pleasure, distracting ourselves from emptiness until Jesus comes back for a filthy bride?

I’m challenged, I try to avoid these kind of films and find a life in Jesus. There really is one you know. It just takes more faith and effort to find than paying 11 bucks, plunking your starving soul down in front of the worlds window to hell, and having another go. Don’t you think? The life in Christ involves a real genuine faith. This world certainly challenges that faith at every hand. Modern cinema challenges it to the hilt! Recently I’ve been challenged by the warning the Lord gives concerning the end times (we’re in it), 'men will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God' And 'when the Lord comes, will He really find faith on the Earth?'

Well, that’s for you and me to determine, personally, for our own lives', who are you, who do you live for, what is your inner sync? Is my life about a constant sensationalistic appetite for more and more pleasure, an unceasing pursuit with a hunger that is never satisfied for more? Does this sound to you like a person prepared to meet God, or a “pilgrim” like those who Hebrews 11 says are the real people of the real faith? Or do you think your life reflects more that of those who Jesus said would be like foolish virgins, or those who simply called Him Lord in word only, unprepared for his return, not seeking heaven truly, living for the now?
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3½
—Kelly W., age 52
Positive—This movie was an intricate bit of storytelling. I felt like I was being led around corners, not knowing where they were going but trusting that it would arive somewhere. It weaves a masterful tale of deceit and subterfuge and keeps you on the edge of your seat with the tension of good and evil. This movie is very well written and keeps your attention to the very well done ending.

As a believer I regreted and endured the 15 “F” bombs in this film. From a truth standpoint the characters 'reaped what they sowed'-from Cooneys character who is living on the ragged edge to the ones who are destroying lives and ultimately get their just deserts in the end. This is a good, thought provoking movie.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Chris, age 45
Positive—This is a film that reminds me of earlier suspense movies of the 70s, namely Network, Three Days of the Condor and the like. It has objectional language but no nudity and no obligatory sex scene, which was refreshing. If you want to see a good thriller with twists and turns, then this film is the one for you.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Reba, age 40+
Positive—This is a fantastic legal thriller. The plot is strong and involving, and the actors all give very strong performances. The language is a bit rough in spots, but it doesn’t get bad enough to take away from the overall enjoyment of the film. Very minimal sexual and violent content, which is extremely rare for an R rated movie today. I highly recommend it and hope it does well at the Oscars this year.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Dustin, age 20
Comments from young people
Positive—Michael Clayton is a film that reeks of immoral and money-hungry people:

The big and bad, the lawyers, the corporations, and those that do their work behind-the-scenes; Michael Clayton, an in-house fixer at a large law-firm, is one of those behind-the-scenes, the “janitor.”

This movie is a very different one, and grabs your attention from the beginning. With such stars as George Clooney and Sidney Pollack, and Tony Gilroy as the director and writer, many expectations can be put on this film. These expectations come through, though. I expect this film to recieve at least one nomination.

The way this movie approaches characters is very interesting, as they are shown in their weakest of moments and in their worst state of mind. Michael Clayton takes a stand on corruption, as in Syriana, another Clooney film. The plot thickens slowly throughout the film, up until the breathtaking climax. It’s not a simple plot to follow, however, nor is it one that leaves you on the edge of your seat as other typical “thrillers” do. Instead Michael Clayton spins its web meticulously. For the typical movie-goer expecting pure entertainment, and not liking a movie in which much thinking is necessary, this is a hard movie to keep up with. One must especially pay attention to the logical flow of events. I believe Christian adults seeing this film will appreciate this, if they take the energy to stay with it and mind the constant language, which is rather sexual and explicit at times. The R-rating truly is deserved, but this movie is worth seeing. It’s a movie that gets you thinking about the issues addressed in it, and hopefully after seeing it, it will raise discussion’s on them.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4½
—Ruth, age 17
Movie Critics
…4/4…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…as good as Clooney is, he is surrounded by a handful of actors operating at the absolute top of their game, particularly Tom Wilkinson as Arthur Edens, a genius, bipolar lawyer… If you want to put money on someone as a favorite in the Oscar race, you won’t go too far wrong laying it down on Wilkinson. He is brilliant—the film deserves consideration also. …
—Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic
…performances are terrific… a film that’s idiosyncratic, with a time-shifting structure, a surfeit of subplots and characters… it’s about taking a hard look at what we’ve become…
—Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail
…a smart and suspenseful legal thriller that comes completely alive on-screen…
—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
…a Grisham-like potboiler and ‘Erin Brockovich’-style corporate thriller…
—Duane Dudek, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
…Compelling… doesn’t let up… features a superlative cast…
—Claudia Puig, USA Today