Michael Clayton, a high-priced-law-firm's fixer, leaves a late-night poker game, gets a call to drive to Westchester, and watches his car blow up as he's taking an impromptu dawn walk through a field. Flash back four days. He owes a loan shark to cover his brother's debts (Michael's own gambling habits have left him virtually broke). His law firm is negotiating a high-stakes merger, and his firm's six-year defense of a conglomerate's pesticide use is at risk when one of the firm's top litigators goes off his meds and puts the case in jeopardy. While Michael is trying to fix things, someone decides to kill him. Who? Meanwhile, his son summarizes the plot of a dark fantasy novel. Written by
During a scene were Edens is wandering through Times Square, a U-North advertisement appears on a massive video screen. Beneath the screen on the side of a bus is another advertisement for a musical called Wicked. While Wicked is about the witches of Oz, its appearance in the same shot as the name of the company Edens was defending is appropriately coincidental given the plot of the movie. See more »
In the early part of the film, during a drive in Manhattan, a tree can clearly be seen in vivid bloom, which occurs in Spring. However, the rest of the scenes take place in a Christmas Season time frame, evidenced by the numerous shots with lit trees, and decorations. As well, the grass is dead in most rural New York scenes, and actors' breath is clearly visible, once again suggesting late Autumn, or early winter. See more »
Michael. Dear Michael. Of course it's you, who else could they send, who else could be trusted? I... I know it's a long way and you're ready to go to work... all I'm saying is wait, just wait, just-just-just... please hear me out because this is not an episode, relapse, fuck-up, it's... I'm begging you Michael. I'm begging you. Try and make believe this is not just madness because this is not just madness. Two weeks ago I came out of the building, okay, I'm running across Sixth ...
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"Michael Clayton" is the name of the best lawyer in the powerhouse litigation firm of Kenner, Bach, & Ledeen. So good, he's not allowed to waste himself in court; he's used to clean up the messes the firm's rich and powerful clients cause -- and he's damn good at his job. Problem is, it's destroying him from the inside out. At least...it's doing so until he slams headlong into a problem that forces him to see the decay growing within. That problem comes in the form of a brilliant but guilt-ridden attorney named Arthur Edens, whose spectacular meltdown during a deposition has thrown a HUGE class-action suit against a conglomerate called UNorth into turmoil. Michael is sent to get him back under control...or else, thus setting in motion what is, in my mind, one of the most breathtaking suspense dramas I've seen in years.
Starting with a tight, stunning script by Tony Gilroy, this movie has every cylinder firing in perfect sync. The acting is, without exception, exceptional. George Clooney takes a vile human being and inhabits him with such sympathy and understanding, he becomes just another man fighting to keep his life going who IS still capable of decency. (The moment where, after Michael's son has seen a beloved uncle who's an addict come groveling for forgiveness, he stops the car and lets the boy know he's stronger than that uncle is so right and so perfect, I nearly wept.) And Tilda Swinton's litigator, Karen Crowder, is so desperate and unsure, you can almost understand why she makes some of the decisions she does. And Tom Wilkinson blazes across the screen as Arthur Edens, who has finally seen the evil within himself and wants to make it right but who, despite all his legal brilliance, is still naive enough to think he can get away with it.
The direction is taut, cinematography and editing cool and precise, and all are at the service of an elegant work that uses the suspense genre to illuminate a filthy world that has been glossed over by money and power. Magnificent in every way.
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