our film reviews: from armchair viewing to the festival front row

27 November 2007

[Reel-Reviews] Michael Clayton (3 stars)

The truth can be adjusted. So goes the tagline, but does that go for the actor's choice of role and performance too?

George Clooney plays law firm fixer Michael Clayton with apparent ease but hardly breaks a smile all performance. It's certainly a departure from his swish/ indulgent turn as Danny Ocean. Add to that the fact that the man's a liberal in a conservative American entertainment system, and not a bad director to boot. For those reasons alone, I gave him the benefit of the doubt with this role - and ended up unsure whether it was a 4 or 2 star film...

As I say, it would seem easy enough to play - a downbeat loser who can control everyone's life but his own. So far, so cliched. But the role's loaded against him from the start - what's not to like about a well-paid, good-looking lawyer being brought down a peg or two with his personal disasters? But Clooney brings an essential chink of unease and gravitas to a role that becomes increasingly complex through the film - and it wasn't just his Merc exploding that made me feel more sympathetic.

Again, one small quibble - act one seemed too slow, act three too fast (as M said afterwards, he wondered how they were going to wrap it all up with 10 minutes to go). Otherwise a steady and interesting choice for Clooney in balancing his other more frivolous films/ roles.

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