Michael Clayton's Toxicology Report (2008)

From "How Michael Clayton Presaged 2017" by James Parker:

"It taxes my reviewerly brain to try to synopsize this movie, because the real mysteries, it turns out, are not the ones you don’t or can’t understand, but the ones that endlessly, bottomlessly disclose meaning. They increase in relevance. And Michael Clayton is mysterious like that: better today than it was in 2007. Writer-director Tony Gilroy is a Hollywood paradox: a visionary journeyman, a machinist-poet who churned through many entertainments, including the original Jason Bourne trilogy, on his way to Michael Clayton. The earlier work holds hints and presagings. In The Devil’s Advocate, Satan (Al Pacino) runs a great big Manhattan law firm, sucking nice young attorneys skyward on backdrafts of temptation, up into the infernal spires and the penthouses of Tartarus. And Jason Bourne, amnesiac hit man, is a very pure existential cipher—a man on the run, profoundly alone, surveilled by demons, desperate to discover who he is and how he was made. But there’s no lively, twinkling Satan/Pacino in Michael Clayton, no CIA master villain. Evil is not an active principle in this universe; it is a sluggish compound of evasion, appetite, and self-interest. It gathers around your ankles." 

From my review:

"Michael Clayton is too labyrinthine to explain very easily, but I thoroughly enjoyed its ice cold vision. Corporations continue to master the art of public relations, but when their wholesome image masks cancerous business practices, you can find utterly fake people like Karen Crowder practicing their lines in front of a mirror before the cameras roll. Tilda Swinton played the evil ice queen in The Chronicles of Narnia, and she continues to play one here. With her pale skin and business formal outfits, she shows how despair and ambition can coil behind a chilling facade.Repeatedly in the film, U/North’s televised ads proclaim that “We plant the seed,” and “We grow your world together,” but underneath all of the glowing pictures of smiling children and wheat fields blowing in the breeze, Michael Clayton delivers a toxicology report of corporate and legal depravity that appears all too real."


Anonymous said…
Michael Clayton didn't predict anything that hadn't already been predicted countless times by other films, books, songs, and other sundry cultural artifacts. The bigger question is: why does Michael Clayton get credit for something it shouldn't? What Michael Clayton exposes is nothing new and has been known about for a long, long time. Why act as if people can't remember anything about the world pre-9/11? That would seem to me to be just as pernicious as the corporate shenanigans that are depicted in the movie. But then again, propaganda's point is to create an ideology that explains the present moment, which outs this article by the Atlantic as nothing more that slick piece of propaganda. "Oh, we didn't know the world was like this. We had no idea. Not until recently." I call B.S.

You are entitled to your opinion. Have you seen the movie? I mostly liked the Atlantic article because I really enjoyed the movie when it came out, and it was fun to compare James Parker's praise of the film with my own.