Mean, Moody & Mediocre
- Michael Clayton review by Count Otto Black
I think this may be another of those films where a best-selling novel with a lot of wordy introspection but very few striking visual images was poorly adapted for the screen. George Clooney scowls well, and expresses self-doubt tipping over into self-loathing like a pro, but not a lot really happens.
The very first scene has a voice-over by a supporting character who has suffered a severe mental breakdown in which he hallucinated hideous and extraordinary things a director like Terry Gilliam would have had a ball with, but what we actually see, after the credits have finished rolling over urban scenery, is his voice coming out of an answering machine in an empty office. The whole film has this problem - it's the first courtroom drama I've ever seen without one single courtroom scene!
The massive court-case the hero's law firm has been fighting for six years on behalf of evil industrialists? Entirely offscreen. The evil they've done that forms the moral crux of the whole movie? Never even glimpsed. Our hero's troubled relationships with various members of his family? Almost entirely offscreen, especially the allegedly tremendously important problems he has with his alcoholic brother, who's in the movie for about a minute. His gambling addiction? Represented by one very brief scene (though we do see it twice); and so on. And then of course there's that spectacular mental breakdown, the event which kicks off the entire story, but which we don't get to see, other than a brief found-footage video clip of the least dramatic part of it that stops just when it was getting interesting. Still, the characters describe all the action we've missed to each other, so at least we know it happened.
Apart from our hero scowling at himself until he's finally pushed so far that he does the right thing, we aren't properly shown much of anything, and there's a lot of baggage which feels as though it was important in the book but the movie didn't have room to do it properly, such as the subplot in which the mentally unbalanced character comes to believe that the bizarre events in a children's fantasy novel are real, which is constantly referenced as if it'll be crucial but ends up going absolutely nowhere, or the many supposedly important characters who appear for precisely long enough to establish that they exist, and not one second longer.
Oddest of all, at the end the film suddenly changes its style and starts behaving like a thriller, even though the sequence in which this occurs generates no suspense whatsoever, owing to the fact that we know exactly what's going to happen because we already saw it 90 minutes ago! And what's the Clooney character's vitally important job supposed to be anyway? As far as I could tell, it's being the only person in a firm employing 600 lawyers who doesn't have zero common sense and even less charisma. Is that an actual job? I doubt it!
Courtroom drama with no courtroom and very little drama, in which George Clooney seldom looks at all happy, and Tilda Swinton never looks at all well. Don't bother.
0 out of 2 members found this review helpful.