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Michael Clayton a different kind of thriller
rparham8 December 2007
Michael Clayton is not your typical legal thriller. Oh, it has most of the standard trappings of one: double-crossing, shady back room deals, and a guilty client. But in the case of Michael Clayton, the film focuses most of its attention on the questionable moral quagmire of working for guilty clients, living your life protecting those who you can't help but find reprehensible, wanting to get out, but finding you are good at it and that is where your superiors want you. Michael Clayton isn't a revelatory film, but it is a smart one that deals in the grey world that we all live in, not the black and white one legal films are usually about.

The central character is Michael Clayton (George Clooney), a "fixer" at a major Manhattan law firm. His job entails him cleaning up other's messes, not litigating in a court room. He hates the work, but the senior partner at the firm, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), wants him to stay in the job because he has a talent for it. Things are not rosy for Michael right now: his addict brother has run a business venture that Michael was a partner in into the ground, leaving Michael with thousands of dollars in debt; his relationship with his ex-wife is on the rocks, and into this environment comes a whole new caliber of problem: Michael's friend, and fellow attorney, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), who is a lead attorney for a major case for the firm involving U/North, a huge, multifaceted corporation, has discovered evidence damning to U/North, and has also, seemingly, lost his senses.

Arthur begins plotting to publicly expose U/North with this evidence, thereby destroying them, something that U/North's lead corporate attorney, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), cannot allow. Michael is called in to help calm Arthur and bring the situation under control, but it becomes quickly obvious that Arthur cannot be reigned in, and Karen begins looking at far more dire methods of containment.

When you walk into Michael Clayton, you need to be prepared for a limited amount of action, and a fair amount of talk. It is a film about words and far less exciting events than found in many movies. Michael Clayton is also not the most straightforwardly plotted film. A great deal of information is suggested through inference and requires the full attention of the audience. But Michael Clayton is hardly boring. It delves into the decisions that individuals make when their livelihood depends on living in a moral quagmire. Michael is a man who is concerned about making sure that he can make the payments on a huge debt and dealing with the sometimes annoying and reprehensible people that the law firm provides its services to. Arthur is in a similar situation, but he can no longer live with himself and the protection of clients who are obviously guilty. It is debatable whether Arthur is mentally unhinged, or simply woken up to the reality of his actions and what they mean in the grander scheme of things.

Michael Clayton is the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy, a longtime Hollywood screenwriter, who crafts a film that manages to keep you involved like a good thriller without providing many of the requisite elements: chases, shootouts and fisticuffs. Michael Clayton is a thriller that works at a slower pace, but still manages to enthrall with its developments. Critical to the film's success is its performances. George Clooney gives us a Michael who feels many aspects of his world closing around him and tries to keep all the balls in the air. Tom Wilkinson's turn as Arthur is that of a man who has experienced an epiphany, seeing the world like a newborn baby. Finally, Tilda Swinton's Karen Crowder is a woman who is all about appearance (one of her first scenes reveals her practicing a speech so that it will appear perfect) and ensuring that no one rocks the boat of U/North. She has sold her soul to the devil and will do anything to keep the company intact.

Michael Clayton is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. It requires a strong attention span and a willingness to not have everything spelled out for you. If you can provide that, then it is a film experience that will provide some rewards.
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Slow burner but high quality movie
bobbyelliott30 September 2007
After seeing "Superbad" last weekend, I needed a grown-up antidote and this movie is certainly that. A slow moving, adult, serious movie with a message.

The movie has a number of themes including ageing, corruption, principles and truth. The movie's message is that there is more to life than making money.

The acting is uniformly good but Clooney is outstanding. His character is complex and he's pretty unhappy with what he has become. But it's all done very subtly. There are no obvious messages in this movie. As another reviewer wrote, you have to pay attention.

Don't read too much into my "slow moving/slow burner" descriptions. This movie is not boring. It just doesn't whiz along with one implausible twist after another. It's evenly paced with an almost complete lack of silly plot lines (there was no need for the lawyer in crisis to remove his clothes during a trial).

Everyone involved in this movie deserves praise for producing a challenging, grown-up, movie-with-a-message in the face of a torrent of mindless nonsense.

Highly recommended.
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An intelligent movie with reasonably wide appeal
Chris_Docker30 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
During one scene, high powered corporate lawyer Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) practices answers for a coming interview. How do you achieve a work-life balance? The question, of course, could apply to us all.

Ideals versus the reality of paying a mortgage? Trapped in a fast lifestyle. You maybe realise what you are doing is less than perfect. How easily can you get out? (One might also ask, how do serious actors balance worthwhile projects against box-office returns. A question that seems to prompt the fluctuating choices of stars like Swinton and Clooney.)

By putting such an impasse at the heart of the movie, Michael Clayton becomes more than an edge-of-your-seat legal drama: it is a powerful psychological study that asks how far we will go to avoid facing unpalatable truths.

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house 'fixer.' He works for a big New York law firm. He sorts out their dirty work. For instance, a big client is involved in a hit-and-run. Or bad stories in the press that need smoothed out. Clayton is good at his job. But discontented. Divorce, gambling addiction, failed business venture, loads of debt. No easy way out, even if he wanted one.

U-North is a large agrichemical company (think Constant Gardener). Their in-house chief counsel is Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton). Karen wants to see off a multi-million dollar class action suit. Clayton's firm is employed to wind it all up nicely for her. But Clayton's colleague, the brilliant Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), has an apparent mental breakdown. He strips off during a deposition. Then tries to sabotage the entire case. Clayton goes in to 'fix' things, yet he is gradually forced to admit how good the firm has maybe become at making wrong seem right.

Much in the tradition of Erin Brockovitch or even Syriana, this is a film that tries to attack the respected authorities while still working within the format of mainstream cinema. (More cynically, it uses high production values and scenes that last no longer than the attention span of passive audiences – supposedly the length of a TV commercial break.)

Directed by the man who wrote the Bourne trilogy, Michael Clayton racks up an intelligent suspense movie out of a plot nominally too dry for mass-market appeal. It reminds us of a world of imperatives we all succumb to. Maybe we don't always stop to question our job or its ethics too closely? Finish our overtime. Get reports ready for tomorrow. Close the deal. Have some private life. Let's leave philosophy for people with time on their hands. 'Nothing to do with me.'

This is a moral-dilemma-movie that could easily have failed and doesn't. Two hours of lawyer-talk could be enough to bore anyone. But the screenplay cleverly contrasts high-intensity scenes and well-developed characters. Arthur's psychotic ranting. Clooney's impenetrable cool. Swinton's prepared polish. These are displayed in the boardroom. Or uncomfortably restrained emotion in family scenes. The high-stakes backroom card game. Or the simple, almost documentary-like portrayal of one of the plaintiffs claiming damages from U-North.

Director Tony Gilroy is in no hurry to play all his cards. By the time murder enters the game, we are so engrossed that it seems like a natural progression.

Cinematography by Oscar-nominated Robert Elswit is crucial. Right from the start, we are torn by fascinating contrasts. A long panning shot through expensive, empty offices is coupled with a sound-over of manic rambling. Suddenly the camera wanders into a busy room. An annoying reporter over the phone. And the overheard phrase, "The time is now," brings everything together in the present. Shortly afterwards, a horrific scene in which Clayton is almost killed. Then flashback four days to unravel a 'smoking gun' that can overturn the lawsuit on which lives, careers and whole firms rely.

At one point, a shadow on the lower right of the screen could almost be an audience member standing up. As it advances, we see it is Clooney. His 'reality-check' moment – one with which we have been subtly led to identify – then saves his life. The subsequent soul-searching and inner turmoil also provide one of Clooney's most rounded and complex performances to date. (Additional casting is spot-on, with Wilkinson and Swinton both excelling themselves.)

Clayton's ability to ask himself difficult questions is matched by Crowder's knack for self-deception. It is a frightening depiction of the legal mastery of words when she gives instructions for the most abominable acts with total deniability.

Although the overly obvious Blackberry product-placement annoyed me slightly, I found Michael Clayton a satisfying film without any of the usual over-simplified characters. Threads are pulled together a bit too conveniently towards the end, but it succeeds in never seeming contrived. If you have always put off thinking a little too deeply about where your own life is heading, it might even give you a necessary nudge. But as all-round entertainment to a thinking audience, Michael Clayton is one of this summer's better movies.
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The law firm's janitor
bkoganbing10 November 2016
In the title role of Michael Clayton, George Clooney is described by himself as exactly that. Whenever there's a big mess he's the one they send in to clean it up. The law firm under managing partner Sydney Pollack has a real mess on his hands. One of the firm's top attorneys Tom Wilkinson has gone off the deep end. He's representing a chemical company accused of poisoning people with a new insecticide they've developed. Cleaning up this mess might be just a baby sitting job with Wilkinson who mentored Clayton. But it has the potential to be worse because this company is guilty as sin and will do anything to limit the liability and keep their good name.

Michael Clayton was nominated for a flock of Oscars including Best Actor for George Clooney as a much flawed hero. Takes a while for the better angels of Clooney's nature emerge. Tom Wilkinson as the lawyer with both conscience and schizophrenia steals the acting honors though. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Michael Clayton got a flock of other nominations including Best Picture.

The film did take home one bit of Oscar gold. Tilda Swinton as one of the chemical company executives who also has an attack of conscience got a Best Supporting Actress Award. She's quite good herself.

The film is an interesting look at big business and the high priced lawyers they must retain to keep them out of trouble. Sad in some cases we have to rely on consciences coming to the fore for any justice at times.

Michael Clayton, a well done piece of cinema.
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An elegant work showing a filthy world
jemmytee31 January 2008
"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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Good film, but not for everyone
John K.-229 September 2007
This is a well-made suspense film. It builds slowly, it features the key characters in sometimes agonising close-up, it weaves an intricate plot (a bit too intricate, in hindsight -- I'm still not sure why some events were included), and George Clooney is masterful as the morally conflicted character who does his best to hold his collapsing life together, while slowly realising that his role in life is not quite what he thought it was in any case.

There are some things this film is not. It's not an action film ... if you expect that, it will seem very slow. It's not a warm and friendly film that leaves you feeling good about the world -- it was shot in winter, just to emphasise its coldness. It's not a comedy in any way, not even through being over-the-top. It's reality rather than escapism.

If you like suspense, unflinching realism, stories of moral conflict, criticisms of corporate America, or George Clooney -- or if you're just in the mood to see that kind of film -- you'll love it. If you're in the mood for a film to wash away the cares of the day (as I was), choose something else.
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Terrfic writing - thrilling from start to finish
nimstic14 April 2018
Came here to write a review to this excellent film. Wonderfully written by Tony Gilroy. I have not seen any of his earlier/or later works except Duplicity, which to me was a pretty average film. Everyone in MC are top of the line pros - Tilda Swindon, Tom Wilkinson, Sidney Pollack and George Clooney, doing what he does best. The story is cleverly written, adapted in a tight and flawless manner. Surprised by the lower rating here. For me a good 8/10. Yes, it has an interesting ending but that doesn't do justice to the excellent journey the film takes you on from start to finish. If you enjoy edgy, legal thrillers, get yourself going with it. I've watched after an article on Atlantic describing it as a treatise on human soul's intense cry for help today. We all want something about this world to desperately change but we see it turning against us with more intensity the more we think about it.
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Fantastic Dialogue, Story, and Acting
rich-rossi-5024 April 2017
There aren't many movies that I enjoy watching twice or more, this is certainly one of them. This is in the running to be my favorite movie of all time. This movie can be hard to follow, and can seem vulgar at times, but in reality the dialogue has a higher purpose: to illustrate how we can get lost in our personal objectives and lose track of the bigger picture. The majority of characters in this movie don't fall into the "good guy", "bad guy" category, they are various shades of gray, just like real people. If one puts themselves in the shoes of the characters, their actions are plausible and consistent with reality. If you don't want to have your brain challenged by a time-line that bounces around and a complicated story that requires the viewer to put the pieces together you might want to save this for another night, but don't miss it, it's an incredible piece of writing and filmmaking.
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A satisfying flick, but you have to pay attention.
wxgirl5514 September 2007
Saw this at a screening at the Toronto Int'l Film Festival.

This movie is appropriately titled "Michael Clayton" because in it we are introduced to the man in his many life roles; father, ex-husband, brother, son, friend and businessman. Some things he's good at, others not so much.

Terry Gilroy's debut directing showed a controlled and restrained hand, allowing the multi-tracked storyline to expand and grow, but always with a pull back to the core. For a fairly busy plot with numerous sub-characters, he did a good job of turning over pieces of the puzzle to bring the audience back full circle to the opening scene.

Michael Clayton fixes things, but we see in his own personal life there are a trail of problems he's dealing with. It's when he works alone that he seems to do his best work. Once those close to him come into his decision-making process, he lets emotions rule rather than his head.

George Clooney always seems to have a message in his movies, wanting us to be aware of the evil-doers out in the world. His boyish charm and general likability makes you root for him. We can relate to him.

Michael Clayton is a flawed individual who has good intentions but often gets beaten by the world and the people around him. Can't we all relate to that too? This was a satisfying suspense flick. Key to enjoying it is to pay attention.
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The best film of 2007
transcendingpictures12 September 2016
This film marks an incredible directorial debut for Tony Gilroy. He was an accomplished screenwriter - and his script for MC is immaculate - but his direction was inspired with confidence and craftsmanship. Immaculate performances across the board - especially from Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson. Masterful storytelling and nearly perfect execution. The look and feel of the world was perfectly calibrated. It's one of the those films that gets even stronger with age. There's so much happening in his film, to re-watch is overcome with revelations. I love this film so much. I really wish they made films this smart and well-crafted more often these days. It's just not the kind of film that movie studios care to make anymore. Sadly.
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Michael Clayton is all about the people
MovieZoo12 October 2007
In a world over-run by corporations and lawyers, the little man rarely wins. It takes a big man to keep that world in order. But sometimes another big man comes along to show who really is the big man. Or is it a woman? That said, no big man would exist without the little man - the outsider.

While you can watch this movie and see a good story develop, the story makes an interesting shift. The people become the story once the initial story has laid to bare the reason for the peoples' existence.

I enjoyed it for that very reason. The characters were all extremely interesting thanks to great performances by everyone. Clooney, Wilkinson, Pollack and especially Tilda Swinton(White Witch from Narnia) - I am in love with her acting ability. I will be doing some back-tracking to catch up on what I have missed from her. In Narnia, she was deliciously evil and in Clayton, she couldn't be any worse at being evil, but that was her character. It was fun to watch how she made weakness such a strength.

Wilkinson is such an all around great actor and makes his character seem lovable although pitiful and downright nasty for reasons I won't bring up here. Wilkinson definitely delivers.

Clooney provided the best performance in a long time. I think Clooney has long been an interesting performer but this role is just one of his best - dedicated, sometimes mysterious, loving and charming; even funny and sad.

You may look for more in the story line but you may miss the best part if you don't accept that the people are the story once the movie gets rolling.

8 of 10
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Class and Sorrow
billion_mucks15 February 2008
I have to say that I didn't expect much of Michael Clayton. But it has grown on me in such a way, reassuring me with it's decided desolate aura, that I owe a review to those in a doubtful measure.

Although it starts with some idle comings and goings, the first reaction we have is to alienate with Clayton. He is battered down, morally ambiguous, suffered. If one watches closely his eyes, one can discover within how a feeling of despair takes over. Clooney is a very happy, cheerful guy: you will appreciate his work, how he lets Clayton dominate Clooney.

In here, the lawyer of the title must decide which side to take in an important lawsuit after his friend changes sides and endangers himself. Is he helping the good guys? How can he tell, deep Inside? The film carries the moral dilemmas, the strangled fight between choosing the good and the correct. Gilroy commanded a brilliant, harrowing script. But Clooney is the definite star, with his sadness, empathy. His sorrow is deeply moving.

The Grey, moisturized environments, carefully veiled with a soft mist. Clooney's interior acting, arising within his foggy emotions.

This film is not cheerful, it's somehow depressing. But it's a must see.
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A gripping thriller
Tweekums29 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Michael Clayton is a fixer at a major New York law firm; in the opening scenes we see him receive a phone call asking him to help deal with a client involved in a hit-and-run case. Shortly after meeting the man he is driving along and stops to stretch his legs and admire some horses… it is lucky that he did as his car explodes! We then jump back four days. His firm is representing a major agricultural supply company that is being sued in a class action case because one of its products was carcinogenic… Arthur Edens, the senior lawyer in charge of the case, had a manic episode while talking to one of the claimants and got undressed! Michael brings Arthur back to New York; Arthur is rambling about the firm being on the wrong side; there is evidence that the company knew their product was dangerous and did nothing to stop it. With a potential multi-billion dollar pay-out being sought the company is prepared to do just about anything so Arthur and Michael are soon in real danger.

This is an impressive thriller; the introduction nicely makes us think the film will be about a slightly sleazy lawyer trying to get a wealthy client off a hit and run case before showing him telling the man that he isn't the person for the job; perhaps he isn't so sleazy; then the explosion makes one wonder just what he is caught up in… by now I was gripped. The main story of a corporation that puts profit before people may not be the most original but that doesn't matter it provides a good reason to give us a gripping story. The subplot involving money Clayton owed did feel a little superfluous but it could be argued that it made him slightly more open to corruption; something that matters towards the end. Tension is fairly high throughout; once we've seen the explosion we know that there are very dangerous people involved. The cast does a fine job; George Clooney is on great form as the eponymous Michael Clayton and Tilda Swinton is solid as the general counsel of the agricultural company. The rest of the cast are pretty good too. Overall this is a solid thriller for those wanting tension without shootouts and frequent explosions.
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"I am Shiva, the God of Death"
Quinoa198416 October 2007
So are spoken as some of the most desperate words- not crazy, there's a difference- in recent movie memory. Michael Clayton is about the character trying to deal with his hand of fate, which is pretty dire: he's 45, working for 17 years for a law-firm where he's a "fixer", cleaning up the problems that can't be solved through simple litigations. Now he has a problem with the chief attorney, the "legend" Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) who has just gone streaking after one of the witnesses in a parking lot. The whole case could fall apart, but is there more than meets the eye? Murder, wire-taps, cover-ups, bombs, and at the core the placidity of a straight-laced face (Tilda Swinton), are all apart of the not-too-complicated puzzle.

It goes without saying that there is a little more than some debt that Gilroy owes to Network, if only in the face-value to be taken from the characters: the weathered professional, the nut who really has ecstatic truth in the Herzog sense, the cold and exacting woman, and the guy working as a top dog behind the scenes. But where Network was as dark as satires get, if there's any laughter to come out of Michael Clayton it's only in the extremely uncomfortable moments of Wilkinson walking in a daze through Times Square or disrobing maniacally on video, or a couple of chuckles at the wrap-up climax. It's a paranoid thriller where, in reality, it's not exactly paranoia in the strictest sense: if it's really happening, then it shouldn't be something to watch out for. But Gilroy continues to build on a sensibility of paranoia, of the darkness creeping up behind the corporate facade, of the sinister presence of those men in cars and vans with total access to whatever and whenever with the target. And you thought the Bourne movies- co-written by Gilory- were tense genre pieces.

What makes a film like Michael Clayton end up as memorable as it is, almost essential for those wanting to go to the movies for a serious drama without pretense or extreme melodrama, is the script and the performances. It's indeed such a strong script that it surely covers over the direction- as a directorial debut it feels like the work of a professional with countless years behind the belt, with a few notes of experimentation (the opening rambling voice-over on the looming, still shots of the empty rooms at the office at night, and the final shot as something that breaks away from what could be a bit more predictable and instead kind of haunting). And it's something as literate as this that allows for actors to go for what they can do best: for Wilkinson, Oscar worthy to a T, it's both subtle and over-the-top with Arthur, at one point making a masterful stroke of carrying loaves of bread; Swinton makes the careful act of preparation and looking at a mirror like it's everything to the character; Pollack, solid as usual, not too much to say.

Then there's Clooney. Already one of those leading men in Hollywood that has enough clout to probably get Sim City made into a movie if he wanted to, when given a serious and complex enough part to dive into (which has been frequent lately save for the Ocean movies) he's near perfect. I love seeing him on the brink of exploding at Arthur when he first sees him going on and on in the prison cell, or when he levels with his kid about his druggie-bum brother, or just in the way he looks frightened and unsure at some horses in a field. And the aforementioned shot couldn't be done so well by anyone else- you don't want to leave the theater even as the credits roll by, because he might do something, something slight behind the usual super-handsome exterior as he leaves the audience wanting to see more. It's an excellent genre film, but it's probably one of the few near perfect performances of the actor's career (and yes, I include Return of the Killer Tomatoes in that group).
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A realization of the possible justice
George_Huang22 October 2007
With previous works on similar subjects such as "The Firm," "A Civil Action" and "Erin Brockovich," how can this one pull it off better? No one would ever believe it can until they see it themselves. Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of "The Bourne" trilogy, revisits the saint-or-sinner theme in "The Devil's Advocate" and brings an excellent script that is full of precise dialog and intense sequences.

Michael Clayton, the senior lawyer in his firm, has fixed up many troubling cases which might not be considered as justice methods. Until another senior partner of the firm, Arthur Edens, freaked out at a hearing, the turning point of his life comes along with it unexpectedly.

Just like any of us, Clayton has to deal with many difficulties in life. Besides the handful works, there are also the child support and the dept owed by his brother. His son, Henry, is a smart kid and fully realizes the way life is. On the contrary, Timmy, his younger brother, just couldn't know how to stay out of trouble despite of having an older brother, Gene, who happens to be an officer.

The case which makes Edens freak out or just pretend to is a lawsuit involves with billions of dollars and hundreds of lives. It's not a rare affair in the U.S. and also one of the bigger ones that makes law firms make profits by helping big industries. But do the lawyers can all manage the deals without their conscience? Yes is the more likely answer.

Unlike the conscience Edens discovers within himself, the executive spokesman, Karen Crowder, doesn't care anything else but the welfare of the firm and, of course, of herself. But she is in fact very diffident due to her position and her sex. The only way she can breakthrough these odds is to make her bosses impressive.

As many have said in their reviews, George Clooney gave his best performance to date. He portrayed this role which is the key to the success of the movie brilliantly with every look, every move and every line that he has to as also an executive producer. He's a strong Oscar contender already.

The acclaimed but overlooked actor Tom Wilkinson does another great job as Edens. The reason and insanity of the role can both be seen through his limited but powerful interpretation.

It's even more thrilling to see Tilda Swinton in the cast. Very different from her previous roles which are well-known as authoritative and neuter, she dealt with a feminine role which tries to act strong but actually weak this time.

Another executive producer and the director of "The firm," Sydney Pollack, took the part which is only bigger than a cameo, shows his interest in this genre once more and being an actor besides already an acclaimed film director. Along side is Steven Soderbergh, the old pal of Clooney and the director of "Erin Brokovich."

With the constant dialog, it might fail to satisfy action-flick fans easily which it seems like one in the trailer. But as a suspense thriller, it's possibly the best one of the year or even in years. The important topic of the downfall sense of justice is a very present message to the society which is filled with the value that measured by money and power. And the gripping storytelling and the dream-alike ensemble cast shows what a good movie is made of.

As the credit shows on the right, the face of Clayton is still shown on screen which tells more about his feeling after the immense scenes he has just been through. Gilroy added a touch of realism to the ending after the metaphor sequence with the horses in the mist.
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Excellent Thriller
desire_9114 March 2008
I just fall in love with this movie, I didn't see a Thriller like this for long time, this movie is really good, I think George Clooney did a terrific job, so as the cost .

This legal thriller was a pleasant surprise. I always expect to enjoy George Clooney's presence in a film. In this case, Clooney's excellent work is in evidence, but also watch for an Oscar-worthy turn from Tom Wilkinson, and a powerful, edgy performance by Tilda Swinton.

Michael Clayton is perfectly paced, and complex without being confusing. The director, Tony Gilroy, chooses lingering and steady shots over in the jumbled, shaky hand-held style that is currently so in vogue -- and his choice works well as the tension and drama build to a climactic, and terrific, final act.

In my opinion, if George Clooney keeps himself in the right direction he will definitely take another Oscar.

Entertainment: 9.7/10

Overall Score: 9.5/10
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Coolness under Pressure
Raven-19693 September 2017
Law and justice are common misconceptions. For truth is adjustable. It depends on money and influence. Michael Clayton is short on both. Deep in debt, isolated and with his authority as special counsel at a massive law firm becoming increasingly tenuous, Michael has no room error. Then the trouble really begins. Arthur, a leading attorney for the firm, suffers a breakdown. Michael is marked for execution. With billions of dollars and lives hanging in the balance, Michael realizes he must channel the skills he learned as a powerful trial attorney; coolness under pressure, finding and exploiting thresholds for pain, and adjusting the truth.

Attorneys, especially those at gigantic firms like Michael's, must jettison or channel their emotions to win. Even then, winning often does not mean success. Arthur is broken down from years of screaming, stalling, scheming and sacrificing his well-being – and that of those he loves - in exchange for billable hours. Eyes opening to the beauty of life and love, Arthur resists Michael's efforts to bring him back to the tasks of the firm. To help Arthur, the firm and all those who depend upon them, Michael first must help himself. The film reveals why, as a law school graduate, I am not practicing law.

As a thriller, Michael Clayton is first rate. Tensions are heightened as puzzle pieces of the story and the motivations of the fascinating characters are gradually revealed and the film jumps back in time. Those in the audience who pay attention to little details are rewarded. The reason for a malfunctioning vehicle GPS unit, for instance, is revealed near the end of the film and with much impact. George Clooney (Michael), Tom Wilkinson (Arthur) and Tilda Swinton are amazing. With added depth to the dialogue, soundtrack and cinematography, the film could be more compelling, yet viewers will delight, as I did, in the charms of this pulse quickening film. Ten years since the release of the film and the nation receives a daily schooling, from the highest levels of government, in the relevance of its theme of adjustable truth.
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Human Shock Absorber
j-penkair11 December 2015
I saw "Michael Clayton" again today probably for the 20th times. This film has amazed me of the right balance, timing, touch, probability, possibility, and still continues to be a wonderful piece of storytelling at my 20th viewing. The premise is most simple, bordering on a soap opera plot. A gray-area guy wakes up against the corrupt and evil surrounding he used to be all right with. He gets to the bottom of his personal and professional life, and wants to crusade against all the wicked hands that feed him. The central theme here is anguish, which I do not know any worldly and sane person not to have. It is a story of greed, money, betrayal, violence, and self-doubts. A few secrets of this film's success, as far as performances go, I believe, are the followings: 1) the likable nature of George Clooney's character 2) the absolutely non-penetrative nature of the character of Tilda Swinton 3) the wonderful madness of the character of Tom Wilkinson 4) the cold-blooded charm of the character of Sydney Pollack. These four main players are with realism and acting internalization. The director Tony Gilroy must have been a great explainer to get all the characters understand inside-out of what they are, aren't, up to, and not up to, otherwise it would have led to shallower performances. I think it is rare to find a film enable us to understand and take a strange compassion towards the so-called "bad guys" (in this case, including one very bad girl). The reason is that everyone operates in fear and instability. No one is God and no one is Satan by design. "Michael Clayton" becomes the film's title because the bucks stop here. You can follow his final departure from the Grand Ball Room to the escalator and into a taxi, whose driver is instructed to "just drive for the $50's worth", and you can judge if Michael Clayton of the world can continue to be a shock absorber for them all, being Gods or Satans. My opinion is: it is a worthily meditative ending of a worthy film.
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A bit of a disappointment
davetex26 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a film for the die-hard Clooney/Soderbergh fans, its a typical vehicle for these guys, full of George looking preoccupied and full of angst (but still clean shaven and his hair is always perfect) while the atmosphere drips with the corruption and hypocrisy of corporate types and people try to kill him. Etc etc. Yawn. Its Syriana without Arabs.

Any lawyer will tell you that the idea that a law firm would employ a special someone to go around "fixing" the odd shady deal is complete horse feathers. All lawyers are equipped to do that, you don't need a specialist. And the idea that a lawyer would jump ship to go work for the other side in a law suit is also not happening. Firstly, you aren't allowed to do that. Secondly, no one is changing clients when you already have the one with the most money.

And if George is so good at keeping things under control, why can't he control his own relationship with the law firm? Why has he been getting shafted for all these years by these guys? Not so smart and tough after all, I guess.

From a structural point of view, the movie jumps around which is confusing and adds nothing in my opinion. But it does distract you from the fact that the whole thing is formulaic and doesn't make a lot of sense.

And why did he stop to talk to the horses anyway? Is that the best they could come up with to avoid his car troubles? Overrated film in my view. Best picture material? Hardly.

Go watch the verdict with Paul Newman or even Erin Brokovich for the better play on these issues.
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Stylish Legal Thriller Ends in Hung Jury
WriterDave16 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
So there's this giant corporation that creates some super-pesticide (or something) that gets into the ground water of some rural upper Midwestern farmers, and low and behold, leads to all kinds of hellish cancer (exactly what the in-house scientists warned of) that then--Surprise!-- turns into a three billion dollar class action lawsuit. Six years into the seemingly endless proceedings, the lead attorney defending the evil corporation (Tom Wilkinson, channeling Peter Finch from "Network") turns into a raving morally conflicted lunatic. In steps the firm's "fixer" (George Clooney, somber and serious), the film's title character, to make sense of things and perform damage control. Meanwhile, the corporation's in-house counsel (Tilda Swinton, perfect as an unethical lawyer in way over her head) scrambles towards a fiscally feasible settlement before the truth is leaked.

Despite the convoluted legal mumbo-jumbo, "Michael Clayton" is entertaining enough, as much of it results in some well executed scenes of wire-tapping and murder. In his directorial debut, screenwriter Tony Gilroy successfully plays with some stylistic elements. Most of this occurs in the film's editing as time-frames and POV's are occasionally jumbled, and dialogue frequently overlaps onto scene transitions. It keeps the viewers on their heels even when what's going is rather dry and boring. The early scenes with Swinton's character are especially well done, as is the elliptical focus on a car bombing.

The performances are all top-notch, with the normally smug Clooney nailing the lead role with just the right amount of nonchalant star power. Unfortunately, the attempts at character development are superficial and stretch credibility. If Clayton is such a legal genius and so good at fixing problems, why does he have gambling issues and get sucked into bad business deals with his clichéd shifty brother? Clayton is also given an obnoxiously precocious son who plays into some of the film's more literary motifs, an ailing father, and a noble cop brother (yes, another brother) who factors too conveniently into the film's conclusion. None of these elements or unnecessary characters explain why Clayton is the way he is, or for that matter, who he really is.

"Michael Clayton" comes to a modestly satisfying conclusion, though the internal conflict of Clayton isn't as compelling as Gilroy so valiantly wants it to be. Thanks to some stylish attempts to invigorate what is traditionally a low energy genre and some excellent performances, the film scores slightly higher than a top-line John Grisham adaptation, but still amounts to nothing extraordinary.
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Big disappointment
user29725717 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was eagerly awaiting the release of this movie only to be dropped flat. Excellent actors, lousy parts. I didn't get attached to anyone in the movie, except for George Clooney's son, who was more of a plot device prop, than a character. There are extra, pretty useless characters, like the drunk brother that waste the viewers time and don't really pay off in the end. The same set up could have existed without the extra family. I'll allow one coincidence to every screenwriter, but this movie is chock full of them. Clooney just happens to have a brother on the police force. He just happens to run into the lunatic lawyer who's hiding from everybody. He just happens to pull over to look at horses when his car blows up. And so on. We have to see this stupid scene not once, but twice. Why does he stop to look at the horses for crying out loud? The first time I see it I think surely its a set up that will pay off later. But no. Not to mention, the writer would have been wise to sit up for an all night marathon of CSI to think we would buy that his throwing a watch, wallet and cell phone in a burning car would equate to somebody thinking he was dead. Hello? the most basic forensically challenged would realize these items would burn up. Yet the absences of a corpse, well, that wouldn't throw anyone off. And the killing of the lunatic lawyer, well, gee, an "apparent suicide" for overdose would include an examination of his stomach contents, which, surprise, would not have included all those pills since his killers injected him with the drugs that kill him. Somewhere in all the hacked, arty story telling there was a half way decent plot that got wasted on this dreary, boring, annoying product. I was so far ahead of everyone in it, I wanted to just stand up and announce what was going to happen so we could all go home. Everybody in the theater groaned at the end. Maybe a few simple people that are in love with George Clooney will enjoy it, but I'd rather watch repeated reruns of ER.
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Front row attention for a back bench man
richard_sleboe30 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Nobody wears the Canali two-piece like George Clooney does, standing tall as his character Michael Clayton picks up the pieces left behind by law firm big shots like Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) and legal masterminds like Arthur Eden (Tom Wilkinson). While Clooney looks good as Clayton struggles to make ends meet, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton strike gold in their superb performances as a penitent genius and his nemesis. Karen Crowder (Swinton) ends up paying a high price to play hard ball with the big boys, while the late Arthur Eden disappears in a whirlwind of raving madness and moral sense. I'll eat my hat if this part doesn't get Tom Wilkinson his second nomination for best actor. But then, the part of the madman has been everyone's favorite since the dawn of drama. Thanks to his impeccable box office pedigree as the man behind the "Bourne" trilogy, the producers let writer-director Tony Gilroy get away with a far from mainstream script. He takes inspiration from tales of John Doe glory like "The Pelican Brief" and "Payback" for plot, and from late nineties gems like "The Game" and "A Perfect Murder" for style and atmosphere, creating a quiet yet suspenseful tale of a weary warrior's tenacity. Having said that, I still wonder how the the strangely enigmatic paddock scene made it into the final cut.
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A Very Gray Thriller
terrygiu20008 October 2007
I understand they were trying to be serious but their intentions took over the film. A special projects man played by George Clooney against the monstrous conglomerates bearing the face of Tilda Swinton. Scary? You bet! Little touches to let us know that the special projects man has a gambling problem and no life. Horses, in an indirect way, will save his life and well, you can sit through this couple of hours without guessing what's going to happen next and, if you permit me, without caring. I prefer George Clooney in his brighter, campier roles. I believe Cary Grant had the same problem but I would like to know who's idea was the Queen Christina moment through the closing credits. That was campy and allowed some much needed smiles. All in all, go to see it at your own peril.
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Lacks suspense, moral dilemma not shown in a compelling way
kellyq122 January 2008
I was really disappointed in this movie. It was just okay. I do not agree with the level of critical acclaim is has received. It was a decent (but not great) character study. It lacked any real suspense. It was pretty simple story that tried to appear complex.

I think there were great individual acting performances, but I think something was lacking in the relationships between the story's main characters, which made it not compelling enough.

One of the biggest reasons for the lack of suspense is that the flash-forward opening killed any possibilities of suspense in the movie's later scenes. The first 10 minutes shows the audience what will happen in the end, which makes a late-in-the-movie "car chase" not really a car chase (we know where he's headed!) among other spoiled moments. So instead the end just feels long and drawn out.

I am not one who needs a lot of flashy action sequences to keep me interested in a story, so that is not my complaint. But even the psychological suspense was lacking. This movie was a story that showed Michael Clayton caught in the midst of a corrupt situation, and it showed how another character's guilt pulled him into madness. However, the insane character was already insane from the get-go, and Michael Clayton never was faced with a really juicy moral dilemma where BOTH choices are bad. I love movies where as an audience member I question what I'd do because the situation is so precarious. Instead, I was bored, waiting for Michael to get on with what was so obviously coming.

A better psychological thriller/character study involving moral dilemma is "Breach." I recommend that over "Michael Clayton" any day.
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Daring, thrilling, entertaining and still rather realistically portrayed
mistramicizia7 July 2018
I actually watched this movie by recommendation from someone else, and the movie met my expectations. I've never been a fan of movies revolving around lawyers, but I do enjoy movies about solving cases and exposing. So, the two elements mixed promise fun. The movie is not in any moment dull and there's always something new that occurs which sometimes seems as if you're watching a real thriller. The acting raised the bar in this movie. It was believable and showing a large range of emotions through witty dialogue. I'm not saying it was unbelievably fantastic, but it was just fine and people of different tastes could enjoy watching this.

DISCLAIMER : Everything stated in this review is entirely matter of personal opinion and doesn't have to coincide with the opinions of other reviewers
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