There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men and Atonement were dead cert Oscar nods – epics full of love, loss and lunacy. Juno? That’s this year’s Little Miss Sunshine. Michael Clayton meanwhile – which finds itself being considered for Best Picture and Best Director – was greeted with a collective, “Michael Who?” Of course, by the time you read this, writer/director Tony Gilroy’s debut may have bagged bugger all, but seven overall nominations commands respect. The big question is, were they deserved?
First off, a quick catch-up: Michael Clayton stars George Clooney (Best Actor nom) as the eponymous murky law firm “fixer”. His job is to do damage limitation on colleagues’ cases and clear the mess caused by deranged lawyer Tom Wilkinson (Best Supporting Actor nom) in a billion-dollar class-action suit with biochemists U/North, which is litigated by Tilda Swinton (yeah, Best Supporting Actress nom).
Strikingly shot, with ambience slow-cranking the sense of dread, this is highly considered, cerebral cinema. It’s less ambitious than (certainly three) of its Best Picture contenders sure, but hardly less effective.
That said, you’ve really got to get into it to reap the rewards, as Clooney’s role is deliberately shrouded in a ’70s-flavoured mystery that’s likely to infuriate those who prefer their cinema to be a more ABC.