DVD Review: Michael Clayton [HD DVD]
Release Date: February 19, 2007
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· Tony Gilroy
· George Clooney
· Tom Wilkinson
· Tilda Swinton
· Sydney Pollack
by Raul Burriel
Published: March 5, 2008
In the commentary to "Michael Clayton", writer-director Tony Gilroy says he wanted to deliver a thriller that took place in the back rooms of a law firm, not in a courtroom. Gilroy succeeds in delivering a thriller that is every bit as intense as any of the Bourne movies he's scripted, yet without any of the action. "Michael Clayton" is a talky movie. But more than that, it's an actor's movie. It's not the kind of movie that lends itself well to walking to the fridge to get another soda. You'll miss some important bits of dialogue and some of the best acting of 2007.
George Clooney is the titular Michael Clayton, a fixer for a high-powered law firm in New York City who's called in when the lead attorney representing a multi-national in a decade-long class-action suddenly loses it during a deposition. The attorney in question, Arthur Edens (played by Tom Wilkinson in a role that should automatically earned him Academy Award nominations for the next decade), happens to be good friends with Clayton. But he's also gone off the reservation and intends to leak sensitive documents to the plaintiffs in the case. Clayton must now navigate the murky legal waters and restrain Edens, all while dealing with some touchy personal issues of his own. It all sounds a little too simple a plot, but it's the details that make the movie. And it's the acting that makes it one of the best movies of the year.
The cast is relatively small and centers largely on Clooney. Except for Wilkinson, the supporting characters are given woefully small parts. Tilda Swinton, as the chief legal counsel for multi-national firm, walked away with a Best Supporting Oscar for her role in this movie, yet she is tragically underused. Most of her scenes are actually monologues, looking into mirrors and confronting her insecurities or looking into a camera or addressing a board of directors, overcoming those insecurities. In scenes where she's made to dialogue with others, those insecurities come screaming to the surface as she stumbles for words and shifts about uncomfortably. It's an incredible role, just an all too small one.
The movie comes together beautifully, which is no small accomplishment for Gilroy for whom this is his first directorial gig. It's clear he's learned a lot about filmmaking while some very successful Hollywood movies. Opting for clever storytelling to establish his main character, Gilroy begins by launching us into the movie's climatic scene. We then jump back four days and begin to piece together everything that will help us understand what we just saw. What's particularly clever about what Gilroy does is that even though we've seen the climax, it doesn't actually spoil the story since it doesn't come together until we see it a second time near the end of the film, with a few extra pieces of the puzzle tossed in to glue it all together.
Gilroy is pleased enough with his directorial debut (as he should be) to deliver a feature-length commentary on the film. Thankfully, he's not alone in this endeavor as he's joined by his brother John, the film's editor. A single person commentary would likely have been disastrous. With John riding shotgun, Gilroy delivers an entertaining and informative commentary. We get the kind of relaxed banter that can only come from two people comfortable enough to call each other pricks. The disc also includes three deleted scenes with optional commentary. Oddly, there's talk of additional outtakes during the feature-length commentary, yet they don't make their way onto the disc.
The bonus material on the disc may be a little sparse, but it's all that's really needed for a movie that isn't a special-effects spectacular. We've got commentary and we've got deleted scenes. Any behind the scenes material would amount to press-kit fluff, and do we really need a blooper reel? No, a finely crafted movie delivers a top notch disc.