Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 23 November 2008
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Culcitate kills. That is, unless you’re the company, U/North, that manufactures it making millions in profit. Or you’re that company’s counsel, representing the weed killer in a PR blitz. Or you’re the high-powered NY law firm, Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, hired by U/North. The fictional Culcitate is a deadly carcinogen causing catastrophic health problems – pure poison in a respectable package, posing as useful and necessary.
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is the law firm’s fixer, although he refers to himself as a janitor, cleaning up other people’s messes and adjusting the truth to a more convenient version of events when necessary. With the firm for 17 years, Clayton has never made partner, content to remain behind the scenes, dispersing storm clouds when they gather. One brother is an alcoholic with a drug problem; the other is a cop. He’s got a gambling problem, a huge debt from a failed restaurant, and visitation rights to a precocious son (Austin Williams) who plays video games and speaks like a professor.
Law firm partner Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) knows just how to engage Clayton’s talents, sending him to investigate a senior litigator’s spectacular recorded meltdown. During a deposition in Milwaukee, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) suddenly strips down to his birthday suit, spouting invective about the product that’s been his life’s work for twelve years. Clayton is dispatched to make it all better.
Arthur Edens has a severe crisis of conscience and tries to stay sane inside insanity as he realizes that all of his professional efforts have been steeped in the deceitful destruction of innocent lives for corporate profit. He experiences an epiphany about his involvement and advocacy of a dangerous product and sets about the perilous journey of confession and repentance. At first Clayton attributes his mentor’s lapse as a bi-polar medication malfunction. Further investigation will reveal deceit and cover-ups, like insidious tentacles, destroying segments of a trusting public. Clayton has his own cynicism to overcome before he picks a side.
Attorney Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) is the in-house chief counsel for U/North, manufacturer of the deadly weed killer. She’s consumed with performance and winning at any cost. Twitchy and neurotic, she is a mass of insecurity and resolve. She has her own corporate henchmen, too, as if they were a part of her power wardrobe and carefully rehearsed spin-terviews (my word). Ruthless and single-minded, Karen will not be inconvenienced by truth.
Clayton is a weary, unflappable utensil in these proceedings until his car explodes when he should have been in it and the course of events takes a sinister turn. The script is heavy on dialogue and you will have to follow along closely to stay informed. The action is understated, with revelations being uncovered in hushed tones and secret documents.
George Clooney’s deep gazes and measured tones impart a weary urgency alternating with a resignation that illustrates a man who discovers a huge betrayal that he can keep being a part of or finally reveal for once in his life. At some point after a tragic development, he will find a thread of his own to unravel in the mystery and find himself using his talents to lead him down a strange, unfamiliar but altruistic road.
Sydney Pollack is another tired power player who has seen it all and understands most of it. His character doesn’t flinch at the three billion dollar settlement his firm must prepare, nor does he take more than a day to hand over an $80,000 loan check to a strapped-for-cash Clayton. Call it a bonus he says and we believe him. Money is its own conversation, much of it left unsaid but definitely understood.
Tilda Swinton’s fascinating character study of an obsessed woman who knows right from wrong but does not let it influence her is riveting and convincing. Swinton is a mass of insecurity and hidden ulcers behind a mask of confidence and composure – a contradiction in a blue boardroom suit and sensible pumps.
Tom Wilkinson as a newly enlightened, socially responsible Pied Piper entices you to follow him in his quixotic mission. His excitement at being able to do good after profit-raking years of silence and denial is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. You will care about what happens to him.
Screenwriter Tony Gilroy (the Bourne trilogy) makes an impressive directorial debut, incorporating his penchant for loaded words and long conversations. Information is plentiful and the viewer is charged with following a complex but ultimately satisfying puzzle of revelation, exposure, and ultimate redemption.