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Catch-Up Capsule Reviews for the Week of 10/14/2007:

Michael Clayton



Rated R | 119 mins


     If there ever was a movie that fit the description “too perfect,” then Michael Clayton is it. This is a slick motion picture that is just oozing in talent; not a frame is out of place, not a line of dialogue is spoken out of turn. Writer/director Tony Gilroy was clearly meticulous in making the film; he almost scientifically positions each scene in its place, as if it were a piece in a cinematic puzzle. In this calculated approach, Gilroy also finds dramatic, climactic performances in the members of his gifted cast, particularly lead George Clooney and supporting actors Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swindon. When analyzed point-for-point, Michael Clayton appears to be nothing short of a masterpiece.

      But despite its aforementioned assets, the movie is actually nowhere near as exciting a piece of filmmaking as it might seem. To call Michael Clayton a great film would be a stunning miscalculation. In truth, Gilroy’s concoction is too perfect. He and his cast become so caught up in making a cleverly constructed film with an air-tight plot that they pay no attention to connecting with the audience on an emotional level. Even as far as legal thrillers go, Michael Clayton is far too stark to affect the viewer in the least. The result is a picture that only engages as far as it is able to impress, never creeping its way into the hearts and minds of viewers enough to allow it to elicit a deep response out of them.

The Assassination of Jesse James

by the Coward Robert Ford



Rated R | 160 mins


     The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, like its title, is beautiful in its sprawling state but, also like its title, could have greatly benefited from being chopped in half. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the movie running for nearly three hours—its cinematography, score, and performances always engage—but the endless time-limit allows writer/director Andrew Dominik to crowd the screen with an unholy amount of erroneous excess. By the time The Assassination of Jesse James was over, I couldn’t remember half of the characters that had been introduced throughout its duration due to their sheer insignificance. Dominik takes a great amount of liberty in toying with unnecessary subplots which, rather than strengthening the power of his picture, weaken its core substantially. The only story-thread that really matters in the film is that which follows the cat-and-mouse game played by the title characters. (These, by the way, are brilliantly invented by a career-best Brad Pitt and an Oscar-worthy Casey Affleck.) The remainder of The Assassination of Jesse James exists exclusively as fatty excess, never unpleasant but only useful to Dominik when it allows him to indulge in his movie’s beautiful visuals.


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