Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





Venice 2007: A fixer and a sleuth

The head of the international Press for the Venice Film Festival, Michela Lazzarin, was tired that afternoon. “Suggest a movie I can relax with “, she
George Clooney in Michael Clayton
quizzed me. “What about ‘Michael Clayton”, she herself pressed the prompt button. I nodded in agreement. “Oh! Clooney. He is great”, she gushed like a teenager. Indeed, he is, and he sure is a pleasure to watch.

Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton”, starring George Clooney in the title role, is a thrilling experience, and the guy is always in command and control. We have seen him in the Ocean series, where he walks through dangerous situations unscathed. In the Gilroy film too, he comes out unharmed after a bomb wrecks his car, and while the explosion occurs Clooney is watching a trio of wild horses in the countryside. He had stopped his car minutes before it cracked and caught fire.

Gilroy has created a strong – and extremely likeable – character in Clayton, and I was not surprised when Michela told me that she loved Clooney. And why not? He is dashing and debonair, a kind of James Bond, minus the guns, gadgets and girls.

Clayton is a fixer working for a large Manhattan law firm, and his business is to clean up the mess left behind by the company’s motley’s clients. The dramatic climax where he fixes up the counsel for an agrochemical company, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), has Clooney at his best.

Undoubtedly, there are many downright stupid events in the movie that make you wonder how at all Gilroy could have incorporated them. But strangely you ask these questions only when you leave the theatre. So gripping is this Clooney thriller.

Sleuth Movie Stills: Michael Caine, Jude Law, Kenneth Branagh
 Michael Caine and Jude Law in Sleuth.
Equally engaging was Kenneth Branagh's new version of the crime caper "Sleuth". It looks smashing and it features several great lines by screenwriter Harold Pinter. But despite some marvellous acting by Michael Caine and Jude Law, it loses its grip in the third act and let's the air out of what might have been a memorably gripping film.

The plot is threadbare: two men argue and humiliate each other over the love of a woman. Out-of-work actor and part-time chauffeur Milo Tindle (Law) shows up at the impressive country mansion of wealthy bestselling novelist Andrew Wyke (Caine) to demand that he grant his wife a divorce.

Then begins the cat-and-mouse game, and author makes an offer to the other man. Break into my house and steal gems worth millions, Wyke suggests. “I need the insurance money, and you can keep my wife”. Does Tindle bite the bait?

(Webposted September 11 2007)