Film Review: ‘Michael Clayton’, 2007, Directed by Tony Gilroy

May 18th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

This four-star thriller/legal Drama where most of the action happens outside of the courtroom is such a joy to watch. The main protagonist, Michael Clayton, adroitly played by George Clooney is known in the legal industry as a “Fixer” – yes I know – what is a fixer? A fixer is an attorney who does not practice law but rather puts out fires. Michael Clayton refers to himself as a “janitor”, he’s charming, smart, is connected to everyone, uses his influence and finds legal loopholes. He is not only good at what he does, he is the best, and he works for one the most prestigious Law Firms in the world. If one listens to the commentary it is made crystal clear that “Fixers” exist in real life and everyone in the know is aware of this fact.
Anyway if the movie is flawed, it’s because it’s a little confusing in the beginning and in some other parts but after seeing the movie twice (that’s the beauty of DVD, besides it’s better the second time) it’s easy as pie to follow along. Anyway, the movie starts out showing Michael Clayton playing poker with some serious players and based on the dialogue it becomes clear that Clayton probably has a gambling problem. He is interupted by a phone call by his boss/lawyer and this establishes the fact that he works for a law firm but in what capacity we are not sure yet.
It’s the middle of the night and Michael Clayton is on his way to help, we assume, a very important client. He also is not aware nor is the audience at this time cognizant of the fact that two men who want to kill him are also following him. Clayton reaches his destination and it is clear that this client is super-rich and has just been involved in a hit and run. The client is very upset and is initially irate that MC is as cool as a cucumber. The client starts ranting, raving, and states that he’s going to call MC’S boss. Clayton softly says “maybe you weren’t driving the car.” Scene ends
It’s almost morning and it looks like MC is going home. As you will see later in the film MC has a habit of just driving aimlessly to allay stress. Clayton is taking in the beautiful landscape and he then spots 4 beautiful horses. MC stops his car and goes up to greet the gorgeous animals. Then –BOOM! His car explodes. Are you confused?  I’ve written 425 words and the film has just started.
The film now jumps back to 4 days earlier. We find out Michael owes money to some loan shark concerning a failed business deal with his brother ( this part of the movie is a little vague and not developed real well but it’s good enough to know he owes $$.) The real crux of the story is that MC works for perhaps the most prestigious law firm in the world- Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, and  throughout the years, being the fixer for this firm MC has been a key pawn in the success the firm. We also know that YES, the law firm is successful but all their clients are crooked and dishonest. This story is about their biggest client, U-North (an agricultural products conglomerate) who is being leveled with a multi-billionaire dollar class action suit against it because many of their products carry carcinogens and as a result, several people have died.
U-North knows they are definitely going to be fined but it wants to settle and stay in business. A problem has arisen when Arthur Edens (magnificently played by Tom Wikenson) the best attorney money can buy stops taking his medication (he’s also bi-polar) and does something incredibly bizarre at the deposition (I won’t spoil it for you) and jeopardizes the entire case. The message of the film is that his behavior had nothing to do whatsoever with his action but rather he grew a conscience. Nevertheless, the law firm brings in MC – “The Fixer” to get Edans into shape in order to help U-North and salvage a settlement.
A lot of action takes place from this point on until the end of the movie. So I won’t spoil this, I’ll just  mention that since Edens has grown a conscience and he knows that U-North ‘s products are killing scores of people, Edens intends on filing a suit against his own client –  U-North.
If I write anymore I’ll give away the whole movie so I’ll stop here and just encourage you to go see the movie – it’s great. There is so much more to come and the tension and intrigue just builds.  Oh, I must mention the fact that Clooney’s acting is superb as usual but Tilda Swinton, who plays the role as U-North’s general counsel (Karen Crowder), is outstanding. At the end of film, There is an interaction between Michael Clayton and Karen Crowder that is absolutely PRICELESS! That one scene alone is worth the price of the movie.
Well enough out of me. WHADAWETHINK ? Have you seen Michael Clayton? If not this is a must- see film and if you have seen it, see it again.
If you don’t own the DVD or Blue Ray of Michael Clayton just hover, click onto the widget shown here, and buy it had a nominal price here at Amazon. Feel free to shop for hours if you like. WHADAWETHINK gets a small percentage of what you purchase. Thank you in advance for your support.

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