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Michael Clayton


Stars: George Clayton, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack, Michael O'Keefe

Director: Tony Gilroy

It's almost impossible to understand what's afoot in this disconnected and disjointed thriller that's not half as smart as it thinks it is. And don't try to keep track of all the scenes for the ones that might hold some sort of key: a few of them are irrelevant, particularly a long mid-film conversation that hero Clooney has in his car with his screen son (Austin Williams), which could have safely been deleted.

And the yarn undercuts its one big chase and suspense sequence by showing us the outcome at the start. What is the point of this?

Clooney plays The Fixer (a better title for the film) at a dodgy legal firm that covers the backs of equally shady private companies: it's hard to tell whose hands are the dirtier. Currently a giant agro-chemical company, U-North, is defending an Erin Brockovitch-type suit - and Clooney's colleague Arthur (Wilkinson), who, like Clooney, cleans up clients' messes, has gone off his medication, rebelled against his lifestyle and taken the side of the little people.

U-North's legal boss (an icy Swinton, very good) has to decide how far she'll go to stop him.

The story does come good at the end with a terrific confrontation scene, but by then you may have lost the will to care. It may be true that some of the classic thrillers only unravelled their plots at the end, but the bits that come before that have to carry their own charges as well.

Goof-hounds should watch for the slip where Clooney's character is described as having been born in 1959 but, in a later harangue to boss Pollack, tells him he's 45 years old.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Pathe. Colour by Kodak/Fujicolor.
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 24 Sep 2007