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Michael Clayton






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.


"?Phil Bacharach


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