Tuesday, February 12, 2008


THE CONVERSATION (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
Like the best of Michael Clayton, The Conversation is a thriller centered on the character and his moral dilemma. Both George Clooney and Gene Hackman expertly capture the essence of their character without an ounce of overacting. Michael Clayton centers itself around a loss of moral focus at the pressure of big business decision making and The Conversation similarly deals with moral responsibility. The Conversation is one of the very best American achievements of the 1970s, so despite being an inferior film Michael Clayton still captures a lot of what it has to offer.

THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975, Sydney Pollack)
Michael Clayton is very much a throwback to the liberal-driven adult character films of the 1970s. Three Days of the Condor is directed by Sydney Pollack, who fittingly plays the head lawyer of Michael Clayton. Both films use conventional genre thriller within the character-driven narrative, feature a great cast, and both have a well-intended liberal messages. These types of films were common for the era, but are rarely made by major Hollywood studios today.

THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979, James Bridges)
The China Syndrome is, like Michael Clayton, a tightly made thriller that centers itself around the performances. The star-powered performance of Jane Fonda is not much different then that of George Clooney. Both performances carry an internal moral conscience that is essential to their characters and they each grow and deepen as the film progresses. Also similar are the characters played by Jack Lemmon and Tom Wilkinson, both of whom are crying out their warning. Both films are well paced, and intelligent, liberal-minded character thrillers carried by the performances.


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