Great Writing

“I’m the guy you buy. I’m not the guy you kill.”

That’s a great line near the end of the film Michael Clayton starring George Clooney. Last night, my wife and I sat down and dined on that film. It was the first time in a long while that I’d seen it and I’m so glad we did. I remembered it being a well-written film. But all through the course of the movie, there’s these great scenes where you appreciate the way the film was written, the way the dialogue was drawn up. There are movies where the writing isn’t that great or it’s just decent, but the actors’ talents come through and it becomes a worthwhile movie. And there are films like this one, where the casting department would have had to go to the C-list actors on most soap operas to screw up the film. It would just be really difficult for any actor to mess up the quality of the story because the writing is just so top shelf.

I hadn’t seen the film when it was nominated and won a few Academy awards three years back. I picked it up because it did so well in the Academy and was hailed as a big deal. I’ve since changed the way I pick up movies. I’ve seen too many films that are hailed by critics and reviewers as “Breathtaking,” “Great story,” “One-of-a-kind,” and so forth and the film just sucks. I’m sure the same is true for you. But this was one exception.

The film follows Michael Clayton (Clooney) as he tries to pick up the pieces of a lawyer gone AWOL (played by Tom Wilkinson) who is defending a giant energy/chemical product company against a few hundred people suing the company for wrongful death and harm due to their product. The company is a global multi-billion dollar corporation that is paying a big law firm tons of money to make these people go away. But one of the key lawyers freaks out on camera and does some pretty off-the-wall things. Clayton is the firm’s fixer. He comes in and cleans up the mess and straightens things out so the case either doesn’t go to court or so the client’s end up way better off than without him. But as Clayton tries to figure out why this key lawyer is suddenly crazier than usual, he begins to uncover a more deadly plot by the huge chemical company, and the firm he’s working for.

There’s some subplots and sub storylines that are well done. But it is the way the dialogue was written for this thing that makes it work so well. I’m really not much of a Clooney fan. Yeah, he’s a good actor and he has that older guy charm, but that’s about it as far as I’m concerned. But watching this movie, it shows me that if you write a film well, the lead can be taken in so many different directions. I’ve long talked about my love for Batman the character, and the treatment he’s been given by filmmaker Chris Nolan as opposed to Joel Schumacher. If Schumacher had treated the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne with a seriousness even half of how Michael Clayton was treated, it would have been such a phenomenal movie. Instead, Schumacher jumped into an ocean of extra cheesy cheese and wrote the stupidest comic book film to date (Batman & Robin). My apologies for those of you who enjoyed that film. Imagine Clooney’s version of Clayton played out as a brooding, methodical Bruce Wayne. It would give Christian Bale a run for his money as to who is the best behind the cowl.

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Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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