After having earned a name as one of Hollywood’s top-tier screenwriters with such credits as the “Bourne” franchise, Tony Gilroy finally tried out the director’s chair last year with “Michael Clayton.” Talk about your impressive directorial debuts “ “Clayton” is a riveting legal thriller that makes John Grisham look like a shyster by comparison.
The title character, in an Oscar-nominated performance by George Clooney, is a fix-it man for a high-powered New York law firm. Michael is handed a particularly thorny challenge when he’s ordered to keep tabs on a brilliant attorney at the firm (Tom Wilkinson) who has suffered a nervous breakdown in the midst of defending a multi-billion-dollar class-action suit. Suddenly, the down-on-his-luck Clayton is ensnared in a web of deadly corporate intrigue.
Gilroy elicits outstanding performances by Clooney, Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton, who justly won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a coldly calculating agribusiness in-house counsel. But the actors have the benefit of a brilliant script featuring sharp characterization, cutting dialogue and plenty of suspense.
The DVD’s main bonus is a disappointingly lackluster commentary by the film’s director and editor, but there’s nothing dry about this edge-of-your-seat thriller.