Single Person’s Movie: Michael Clayton

It’s 2 AM and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully-lit apartment and still on the couch. On TV, the credits of some movie you’ve already seen a billion times are scrolling by. It feels like rock bottom. And we know, because we’re just like you: single.

Need a movie to keep you company until you literally can’t keep your eyes open? Join us tonight when we pass out to Michael Clayton [starting @ 11:45 p.m. on Thriller Max]

Why we’ll try to stay up and watch it: In Hollywood, as in life, one truism never fails: timing is everything. Take Michael Clayton. Tony Gilroy’s taut legal thriller was released in the fall of 2007 to strong reviews, middling box office and seven Oscar nominations, including an eventual win in the Best Supporting Actress category for Tilda Swinton. Quite a success. And yet! It could have been so much more. Were Michael Clayton released last fall, we’d probably be talking about it as the favorite for Best Picture right this second (you know it’s better than all of the other current contenders). Imminently watchable, forever entertaining and a star vehicle with a fantastic star performance, we have no doubt that time will look fondly on Michael Clayton. It’s destined to get even better with age.

About that star performance: In Michael Clayton, it would be very easy to say that George Clooney is just playing the same role he always does, but that’s missing the point. The beauty of the character, and Mr. Clooney’s work, is that Michael Clayton draws on the audience expectations of “George Clooney” and peels back the layers of that persona like an onion. By the end of the film, the only thing we’re left with is Mr. Clooney’s utterly spent humanity. It’s a heartbreaking performance; proof that while most of the time Mr. Clooney glides by on his charisma, he has few peers amongst actors when he gets a role that he can sink his teeth into.

When we’ll probably fall asleep: As good as Mr. Clooney is–and he’s never been better–he doesn’t do everything alone. The entire cast is spot on, proving that Mr. Gilroy is an adept handler of actors (we cannot wait to see what he does with Clive Owen in Duplicity). However none of the supporting players rival Tom Wilkinson. Like Ms. Swinton, the British actor also got an Oscar nomination for his tightrope performance as a schizophrenic lawyer who blows the whistle on his rich client. Mr. Wilkinson is manic and exhausting, but there is a tender naïveté in his character; an innocence that makes it all the more tragic when he meets his demise. At 12:55, 70 minutes into the film, Mr. Gilroy and his cinematographer Robert Elswit unleash an extended sequence that shows the end of life in a single take. The scene is harrowing and utterly brilliant, one of our favorites because of its simplicity and sadness. It’s also probably dangerous to watch right before we go to sleep. However! It’s so good, we’ll risk the nightmares.

Single Person’s Movie: Michael Clayton