The only big film I have seen is Michael Clayton, which I liked a lot. There is quite a strong blog presence against it, particularly against its structure.
At the beginning of the film we see MC survive a car bomb, and then we get the “4 days earlier” message that resets the time frame. When we arrive at this point in time again, people are complaining that no suspense exists, because we know he survives.
That is true. But the car bomb scene is not about intrigue suspense, but about subtle dramatic revelation and a turning point for the character Michael Clayton. I haven't seen anyone write about this.
At the beginning of the film, MC “fixes” a situation for a client in Westchester, and as he is driving toward home he sees horses in a stand of trees. He pulls over, gets out of the car and walks over to them. It is just dawn, and the lighting of the scene is very beautiful. Over his left shoulder we see his car blow up. He runs into the forest, and then we go back 4 days earlier and the story really starts from there for the viewer.
When we arrive back at this scene, we have important new knowledge and context. We have learned that MC’s son Henry is engrossed in a sci fi world of a book called Realm & Conquest. He gives a copy of the book to his dad, and to Arthur Edens, the other main character. Arthur is very taken with it, and bonds with Henry over it. MC hasn’t had time to look at it.
Fast forward to Arthur being killed. MC goes to his apartment to look around, and he finds the copy of the book. He flips through it and stops for a second on a page with an illustration of horses. (He continues to flip, and finds the receipt for the report that is at the copy shop.)
Now further ahead to Michael driving away from his task in Westchester. Again we all see the horses—but now we know that they are almost exactly like the illustration in the book. That’s why Michael stopped in the first place. He was amazed, surprised. Without this knowledge the first time, you have to wonder why he got out of the car for a bunch of horses. They are not an uncommon sight in Westchester.
This second time with the horses is a longer scene than the first. We see Michael’s reaction more fully, and it is beautifully dramatic. We now see on his face that he feels his grief over Arthur, and his deep love for his son, and that he is having an “ah-ha” moment of embracing life itself in the beauty of those magnificent animals. Then the car blows up. So, the illustration in Realm & Conquest saved Michael's life. Hmm.
The evil corporate giant U-North is the antithesis of everything that is connecting in Michael's head, and from that moment, he acts to finish what Arthur started, and bring down the bastards.
As I said, it’s a subtle moment. It wasn’t meant to be suspenseful about the car bomb. I think it’s a tighter film than some people give it credit for, and Clooney’s performance is very, very rich.
That said, they say that Daniel Day Lewis has a lock on the Best Actor nod. I will catch up, sometime.