Weekday Lounge Exclusive | In theatres today

Weekday Lounge Exclusive | In theatres today
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First Published: Fri, Feb 22 2008. 12 05 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Feb 22 2008. 12 05 AM IST
Michael Clayton
Clooney on a thrill ride
by Kirk Honeycutt
Maybe all large corporate law firms have guys like Michael Clayton (George Clooney). He calls himself a “janitor.” He is a lawyer, but his “niche”—as the Manhattan firm’s co-founder Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) so delicately puts it—is to clean up messes by the firm’s motley clients.
While driving back from a cleaning job in upstate New York, Michael unaccountably stops on a lonely road to observe a trio of horses. Suddenly, his car blows up. Someone has tried to kill him!
Backtrack four days. Near the conclusion of a six-year class-action suit against an agrochemical client, the firm’s top litigator, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), who is on the road and about to pull off a pretrial settlement, suffers a movie attorney meltdown. You know, the kind real-life lawyers never have. Arthur discovers that his client is guilty as hell and wants to make amends. A manic-depressive and off his meds, he is switching sides. Michael rushes to the Midwest to rescue mad Arthur from lockup.
Meanwhile, Michael’s own life is in free fall. A serious gambling addict, he has decided to bet instead on a restaurant venture, which his alcoholic brother has run into the ground. He owes $75,000 to some apparent bad guys and makes a devil’s bargain to turn the Arthur situation around for a bailout by the firm.
The agrochemical company’s chief counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), so anxious and overwhelmed by her knowledge of the firm’s culpability and, by implication, her own shortcomings, panics. She hires shady characters to take care of loose cannon Arthur. After this much more noxious type of cleaning job, the shady characters can’t help noticing Michael snooping around to learn the truth behind his friend’s demise. Thus, the maladroit car bomb.
A question you might ask yourself: Why a car bomb? Isn’t that rather clumsy and attention-seeking in the midst of a delicate legal settlement? And why on earth do the hoods stake out the sealed loft of the deceased?
Funnily enough, you ask these questions only after the credits roll. Until then, you are genuinely caught up in the thriller. Gilroy proves a decent director of his own literary inventions. He trusts his actors, and they return the favour with solid characterizations down even to small roles.
There Will Be Blood
Blood will hit pay dirt at the box office
By John DeFore
Both an epic and a miniature, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film uses the fewest possible brush strokes, spread across a vast canvas, to paint a portrait of greed at the beginning of the American century.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a prospector introduced in a wordless sequence showing his progression from heavy-bearded miner to civilized man with prospects. The film then makes up for lost time as Plainview addresses a gathering of country landowners in hopes of talking his way onto their property. In Day-Lewis’ hands, the spiel becomes a John Huston-ish seduction, a velvet rumble about how qualified he is to suck oil from their dirt and transmute it to wealth for them and their children. When his listeners hesitate before taking the bait, Plainview refuses them a second chance, moving briskly to the next-best prospect. Eventually, he lands a territory with vast, empire-building potential, and the film settles down there, watching him struggle to exploit the discovery.
The film isn’t as bloody as its title suggests, but from the start it makes the most of what violence it contains. The dangers of digging for oil are starkly depicted.
That loss and a more mysterious family matter are all we see of Plainview’s personal life. An obstacle arrives in the person of Paul Dano’s Eli Sunday, a self-styled man of God hoping to funnel as much as possible of his congregation’s impending wealth into glorifying the Almighty. Barely old enough to shave, Sunday spellbinds listeners with frenzied exorcisms and threatens to steer his flock away from the man who needs their land.
This one has none of the attention-grabbing flourishes of Anderson’s earlier films. The closest it gets to self-conscious showiness is its closing scene. Its setting is visually spare and eventually the scene makes good on the title’s promise.
Even here, though, what could be mere showboating serves as the last step on the path Blood started out on: drawing us slowly and with steadily increasing horror into the bitter world view of a man whose name suggests he sees the world for what it is.
Releasing in New Delhi theatres today.
Jumper
The hyper action movie goes nowhere
By Michael Rechtshaffen
For a picture steeped in wormholes and zippy trips via the space-time continuum, Jumper proves disappointingly inert. All the state-of-the-art visual effects in the world can’t compensate for spotty plotting and bland characters that prevent an intriguing premise from going the distance.
Based on the young-adult sci-fi novels Jumper and Reflex, by Steven Gould, the film revolves around the transcontinental exploits of David Rice (Christensen), who inadvertently finds out about his peripatetic prowess while back in school, escaping from a potentially fatal accident.
Once he gets the hang of things, he uses his teleporting powers to buy freedom from his abusive father (Michael Rooker) by jumping into a bank vault and jumping back out again with its entire contents.
That pretty much sets him up for life, spending his young-adult days whizzing among New York, London, Paris, Cairo or wherever his whim takes him.
But just as David picks up where he left off with his school crush (Rachel Bilson), he finds out that he’s not the only one with his particular talent when he runs into Griffin (Jamie Bell).
Griffin gives David a little history lesson about the centuries-old battle between the Jumpers and the Paladins, a secret organization dedicated to wiping them out courtesy of high-voltage contraptions known as tethers.
And leading the Paladin crusade is one Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a man with snow-white hair and a strong personal moral code having to do with the Jumpers going where only God should go. Or something like that.
It’s evident that this is a movie with The Matrix on its mind, but where the Wachowskis’ movies came complete with a richly developed mythology, the Jumper backstory is awfully muddy.
More dynamic performances wouldn’t have hurt, either. Christensen brings a brooding intensity to a part that really required a charismatic energy to better complement the action, while his old “Star Wars” co-star Jackson fights a personal battle with that distracting ’do.
On the technical end, while the film combines virtual effects with live location shooting in New York, Tokyo, Rome, London, Paris and Cairo, the end product somehow has all the dimension of a picture postcard—admittedly scenic but flat.
Releasing in New Delhi and Mumbai theatres today.
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First Published: Fri, Feb 22 2008. 12 05 AM IST