George Clooney Month #3: Oceans 11, Michael Clayton

Ocean’s Eleven

George Clooney reprises Frank Sinatra’s swinging heists of the 60s as the charming, yet daring con: Danny Ocean. Danny and his crew of eleven aim to rob Terry Benedict of huge sums of money stored in his casino vaults during one of the biggest fight nights in the city. Money isn’t the only thing the Danny hopes to recover from Benedict, and this leads to consternation from his team. Steven Soderbergh directs Clooney and his motley gang, played by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner, Shaobo Qin, and Don Cheadle (regrettably uncredited) as Basher. Rounding out the cast, Julia Roberts plays the ex-Mrs. Ocean; Andy Garcia plays Benedict, her new love interest. The entire movie is filled out with the quirky, gritty music of David Holmes.

Ocean’s Eleven is slam-packed with intelligent stratagems and unexpected twists. George Clooney draws us in with his inherent magnetism, and each member of his teams adds their personal flourish to the robbery. Even as the heist has almost culminated as the snatch of the century, we are kept in the dark as to the how and even the why.
High-tech and low-tech is cleverly combined to create Ocean’s Eleven, one of the century’s top heist movies. As the audience, we’re constantly excited and ready to take that figurative leap from our seats.

One of the best parts of the storyline is Danny’s dedication to Tess, his ex-wife. As heist plans progress, we are led to believe that perhaps Danny has lost it. Has he lost that sparkle in his criminal mind? Maybe he has.
But even as we are left wondering who to trust, Danny Ocean throws out his trademark smile with a glint in his eye and he, inevitably, leaves us wanting Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen.

Michael Clayton

Finally playing on the “right” side of the law, George Clooney stars as lawyer, Michael Clayton. Clayton’s job is to clean up the clutter made by other lawyers in his New York firm, though his methods may not be entirely kosher. The biggest mess has arrived as a pesticide case which leads to an unexpected decline of colleague and friend, Arthur. Clooney is supported by Tom Wilkinson as the good guy (Arthur) and Tilda Swinton as the bad guy (whoops, bad girl). Director and writer, Tony Gilroy, puts together this superb thriller encompassing car bombs, carcinogens and class action lawsuits.

Unlike many of Clooney’s comedies and actions, Michael Clayton centres itself on serious intrigue and more adult themed conspiracies. We are carried through the movie feeling his suspense and confusion without any of his typical wit and satire. The acting is strong, as is the plot, which is believable in light of the many corporate controversies of our times.

George Clooney dramatizes a realistic progression of a man doing a job to a man preserving a friend. Despite the vague legalities of his methods, he brings us onto his side, and we root for his success. Without his stellar performance, this great movie would be lacking in sincerity and rhythm. Throughout, Clayton tries to maintain his familial connections, though somewhat failing at this with his son, and he reminds us that life and adventure is multi-faceted, yet harmonious with an earnest home-life.

Michael Clayton is definitely an intrigue worth deciphering. We are left feeling spent, yet fulfilled, and utterly pleased with the progress and the outcome. George Clooney shines through another genre, surprising us with his adaptable talent.

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