15 years ago, Tony Gilroy was directing the perfect American corporate thriller

0

Tony Gilroy’s name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days.

The veteran filmmaker has been widely praised for his work on Lucasfilm’s latest live-action Star Wars TV series, Andor. For most Star Wars fans, watching the new Disney+ series may be their first time actually engaging with something Gilroy also wrote. If so, it is easy to imagine why AndorThe razor-sharp dialogue, patient pacing, and clever plot might come across as a little surprising.

The truth about Andor, however, is that it’s just the latest in a long line of projects in which Gilroy has explored how innocent and less innocent people are often controlled and manipulated by the commercial and political machinery that surrounds them. It dealt with similar topics in both the original Bourne trilogy and its oft-maligned 2012 spin-off, The Bourne Legacybut no film proves better why Gilroy was the perfect person to Andor that Michael Clayton.

It’s been 15 years since Gilroy’s 2007 drama hit theaters, but it could very well still be America’s greatest corporate thriller of the 21st century.

Michael Clayton is both a tight thriller and a compelling moral drama, and that’s what makes it so effective. The film isn’t just about a chemical company desperately trying to cover up a scandal that could cost it billions of dollars, and it’s not just about the doings of the law firm tasked with handling the situation. In place, Michael Claytonwhich was written and directed by Gilroy, uses both sides of its story to explore the moral concessions that contemporary corporate America demands of anyone who dares to enter its sphere.

At the center of the film’s exploration of corruption is Michael Clayton (George Clooney), an experienced fixer who spends his days secretly handling difficult situations for the clients of his law firm. Michael, like everyone else in the film, operates on a constant level of ruthlessness. He speaks succinctly and pointedly, never missing a word and rarely beating around the bush.

It is through the perpetually narrowed eyes of its protagonist that Gilroy presents Michael Claytonof the company, which programs those who operate there to handle the staging of a crime scene with the same efficiency and abruptness usually reserved for lifting and moving furniture. This coldness permeates the criminal underworld of the film’s upper crust and makes it instantly dangerous.

When Michael finally decides to disobey his bosses, that sense of danger intensifies and further helps the film earn its place among America’s great paranoia-driven thrillers.

George Clooney gives the best performance of his career in Michael Clayton.Pictures from Warner Bros.

Gilroy is, of course, far from the only filmmaker who has dared to dive headfirst into the corrupt world of corporate America. However, what separates Michael Clayton of so many other social thrillers like this, it’s how Gilroy’s efficient, mercenary cinematic style never gets in the way of his film’s emotional foundation. Indeed, not only is Gilroy able to tell audiences everything they need to know about Clooney’s Michael with a single line of dialogue (“I’m not a miracle worker. I’m a janitor”), he done without sacrificing the emotional layers of the character.

In other words, Michael’s remark about his profession not only tells us what he does for a living, but also how he perceives his own profession. In his eyes, he is not a miracle worker or someone to admire. Instead, he’s someone whose familiarity with the dirty side of American life keeps him from any form of higher moral status. He’s jaded and exhausted, but not blind. It’s his ability to see his situation with clear eyes, in fact, that makes him so great.

The same could be said of Cassien Andor in particular.

Michael Clayton believes that even the most powerful systems can be destroyed, but only if real sacrifices are made.Pictures from Warner Bros.

Michael Clayton manages to emotionally and intelligently attack modern corporate America more deeply and convincingly than any other film of the past 22 years. A little like Andor and A thugthe film believes that even the most powerful systems can be destroyed, but only if serious sacrifices are made.

In A thug, which Gilroy has heavily reshaped behind the scenes, the Rebel Alliance can only strike a blow against the Galactic Empire after all of the film’s central Rebels are dead. The first episodes of Andor have also juxtaposed loss and progress, but in Michael Claytonit is the life of the film’s protagonist that must be destroyed for a victory to be won against corporate America.

For this reason, it is Michael ClaytonThe wistful final image of Clooney’s broken fixer taking a cab to a new life not only cements it as America’s greatest corporate thriller of the century to date, but also proves why Tony Gilroy has always been a worthy choice. step into the greatest galaxy of distant cinema.

Michael Clayton is available to stream now on Tubi.

Share.

Comments are closed.