Michael Clayton (2007)

(In theaters, November 2007) When a top lawyer comes to realize that he’s working for evil and evil starts hitting back, it’s time for the fixer to take care of himself. The plot summary may sound like a thriller, but the title suggests otherwise: Everyone in this film is flawed, and that includes the titular fixer with problems of his own. Character study? Oh yes. But that’s not all: George Clooney has been going some pretty cool things on both sides of the camera lately, and this soft-paced, elliptically told film finds a place alongside other socially-conscious films like The Good German and Good Night And Good Luck in telling tough stories about today’s world. Clooney’s performance is enjoyable (the monologue he gets at the end is terrific), and reinforced by good supporting turns by Tom Wilkinson as a unhinged motormouth manic-depressive and Tilda Swanton as an executive clinging to self-control. What doesn’t work so well are a few coincidences, some redundant time-shifting and a well-controlled pace that doesn’t seem interested in hurrying up. Nonetheless, it’s an entirely respectable film, and another one of those recent thrillers where even rampant cynicism can eventually allow a glimmer of hope.

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