A law firm brings in its "fixer" to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action su... Read allA law firm brings in its "fixer" to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit.A law firm brings in its "fixer" to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit.
My definition of noir centers on the world between the viewer and the story. In the ordinary instance, the characters (usually one man and his girl) find themselves in a world where the laws of cause and happenstance are artificial. Things don't happen as they normally would in life, rather they are arranged. Things are artificially jiggered to produce a story that works for the storyteller. Odd circumstances. Strange coincidences. Unlikely relationships. Things serialized, compressed and displayed for the convenience of the viewer.
The thing that's characteristic of conventional noir is that the thing starts with a real reality. We have a common fellow, nominally a Jimmy Stewart type, who is living a normal life and who gets lifted into a noir fate. What makes this so flexible is that we the viewer become gods, jerking around the character. This allows for all sorts of clever ironies and narrative folding because we implicitly become agents in the story.
But if you are a modern screenwriter or filmmaker, your greatest challenge (usually) is what to do about this. Its something that Soderbergh and Clooney worry about. What we have here is pretty basic noir, elaborated in three dimensions.
The first is that they chose to make our noir hero a full character. No Philip Marlowe here; this guy is comparatively fleshed out and played by someone who knows how to do so.
The second twist has been done before. They add in the world of law. That world has a different ontology in matters of cause and truth, so is a handy one for noir games. For lawyers if something really is true it doesn't matter. Its only true if there is admissible proof that it is so. Cause, the basic thing that is at the root of noir fate, has a similar disconnect between the real and the legal. Normally, this would just be a background element. But here there is something novel.
Clayton's son has a fixation on precisely these matters of real and unreal worlds. There's lots of talk about how they blend, and a terrific device of a lawyer who decides to "change sides." That means shifting from the evil corporation to the ordinary girl, at the same time shifting from memos to a fantasy book he literally puts a "new cover" on a key document. And he shifts from sanity to madness. A key plot point, by the way is that he never did anything without leaving a memo.
This is terrific writing and reason to see the thing by itself. Kid, book, reality.
The third twist is that we have two noir characters. The woman here isn't just a moll along for the ride. She's Tilda Swinton for heaven sakes, someone equally caught up in circumstance. She's probably in her position because of past sexual favors and trying hard to "perform." She's as manipulated by the story as the Clooney character. Its a bit novel and very well done. She's good to have around.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
- Oct 19, 2007