George Clooney turns in a towering performance as the title character, a “fixer” for a powerful New York law firm who’s grown tired of cleaning up the messes of the morally reprehensible. But there are no easy exits in this world, dreamed up by the writer-director Tony Gilroy as a sleek and shrewd snapshot of corporate malfeasance. He creates a showcase role for Tilda Swinton, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a ruthless power broker whose confidence is diminishing by the minute. Manohla Dargis deemed it “adult, sincere, intelligent, absorbing.”
(Via NYTimes Watching newsletter)
The movie is more complex and subtle than this synopsis paints. One of the things I like about this film’s structure and George Clooney’s performance is that you can almost see the gears in his head turning, processing the compartmentalization he needs to do to manage the multiple threads.
There’s an economy here I wish so many other movies could emulate. Tom Wilkinson’s untethered Arthur could have been a caricature, and an unsympathetic one at that. Instead, the story conveys the both the humanity of someone struggling with mental health and ethical issues (which one triggered which?), and the painful frustration of those who want to help but can’t devote the time and attention needed.
Also, Merritt Weaver. She’s been in so many things I’ve watched in the past six months: New Girl, Marriage Story, this film, and I saw her in an old Law & Order. I first noticed her in Studio 60, and she never fails to deliver even when her role is relatively small.
Michael Clayton is scary in its believability. The bad guys are both ruthlessly efficient and vulnerable to the same things that frustrate the rest of us. And, of course, Tilda Swinton. It’s a 5 out of 5 for me, a must watch.