George Clooney once again shows us the Hollywood powerhouse he is as lead actor and producer of this engaging film.
While the film is essentially well-written and extremely well-acted, it offers nothing new to the corporate thriller genre and most of Amazon's comments in their review are dead on accurate. The film is essentially a mystery that involves corporate baddies trying to screw over the little guy by covering up a danger to the public. We've seen this plot before in film's like Erin Brockovich
. In addition, we have a conscience driven lawyer who is tired of defending criminals he knows are guilty and another lawyer who is burnt out from playing the firm's "Janitor" and now wants to find some moral ground to land upon. Both lawyers are seeking some kind of redemption. The first has a nervous breakdown finding it and the second is forced to find it as his life spirals out of control. This is very much like Paul Newman's Oscar nominated role in the fabulous film The Verdict
The script is clever, but all too predictable by the final third of the film. In fact, as generally satisfying as the finale is, it is something of a letdown too. Things are wrapped up far too neatly for what was a complex film with deep round central characters. Clooney's character has his nature revealed to us slowly as if peeling a rotten onion. Each layer is ultimately unsatisfying until we get to the core which seems damaged, but salvageable. I certainly expect another Oscar nomination for him and it's well-earned here. Tom Wilkinson as the manic depressive attorney who has an epiphany that his corporate clients should not get away with what they are doing is a bit over-the-top and even stereotypical, but still convincing in the end. A supporting Oscar nod is not out of the question, but I think he would be undeserving of it. Contrary to a majority of the reviews here, even Tilda (The Chronicles of Narnia
) Swinton's controlling corporate bigwig who lies to herself to justify her actions is a deeper character than most give credit for her being. Her avoidance of actually saying, "Kill (fill in the blank)" coupled with her sweating fit scene clearly demonstrates a believably conflicted individual. I would not be surprised to see an Oscar nod for supporting actress come her way. Even Sydney Pollack, sometimes director (but better actor), is very convincing here and he also serves as co-producer with Clooney. These generally terrific performances nearly make up for a somewhat flat ending.
Credit must be given to first time director James Gilroy who adapted the "Bourne" books to film and wrote the screenplay for this film. He handles his actors well in that he knows what he wants, but also trusts their instincts to deliver what they believe are their character's true emotions. His directing style in unobtrusive and that greatly benefits this particular kind of film. His lack of coming up with a more complex, less tidy ending is his only major flaw in this otherwise outstanding film that is certainly worth your trip to your local theater or Blockbuster when it becomes available on DVD.