The Oscar buzz had already begun when Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut, Michael Clayton made its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September. Released nationwide this past Friday, October 12, 2007, this movie marks a watershed moment for Gilroy as he expands on his already action-packed screenwriting credentials. Michael Clayton stars George Clooney as a “fixer” for a prestigious law firm–a glorified janitor who covers up clients’ dirty deeds so big players can stay on top. Faced with a crucial settlement against an agrochemical company, the firm’s star litigator goes off the deep end, and Clayton must rein him in to preserve the lucrative case.
But Clayton must also look at himself and face the consequences of his work–much like the hero Gilroy constructed for the popular Bourne trilogy. The New York screenwriter scripted all of the movies in the trilogy, which have been widely lauded as top-quality, nail-biting spy films. He perfectly captures Jason Bourne’s progression from a ghost with no past searching for answers, to a man on a mission, making amends for being used his entire career. These movies are often recognized more for their acting and directing, but the backbone of Gilroy’s screenplays gives the characters their gritty foundations.
Michael Clayton is Gilroy’s second attempt at exploring the world of corrupt law; he also wrote the fantastical thriller The Devil’s Advocate (1997). Born into an industry family (his brothers are also in the movie business), Gilroy was able to learn from his father,a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The younger Gilroy made his debut with the 1992 hockey player-meets-ice skater romance, The Cutting Edge, spoofed in this year’s Blades of Glory. Since then he has collaborated three times with director/producer Taylor Hackford on movies including Advocate, 1995’s Dolores Claiborne and 2000’s Proof of Life. Range isn’t Gilroy’s strong suit–his early career had some promising variety, but all of his movies within the last ten years have been alpha male action fests or legal dramas. Now that he will be directing his own screenplay however, there’s hope that Gilroy can visually hone what he has already written so well.