Attorney Michael Clayton is a "fixer," the go-to guy when his powerful New York law firm wants a mess swept under the rug. But now he?s handed a crisis even he may not be able to fix. The firm?s top litigator in a $3-billi... more »on case has gone from advocate to whistleblower. And the more Michael tries to undo the damage, the more he?s up against forces that put corporate survival over human life ? including Michael?s. George Clooney portrays Michael, backed into a career corner that offers little room to fight free in this suspense- and star-packed thriller written and directed by Tony Gilroy (writer/co-writer of the Bourne movie trilogy). Keep your eyes on Michael Clayton. He has some life-or- death decisions to make. Fast.« less
Rebecca H. from HENDERSON, NV Reviewed on 10/25/2011...
ROSE O. from TOMBALL, TX Reviewed on 11/8/2009...
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Deborah A. from SARASOTA, FL Reviewed on 9/3/2009...
George Clooney plays the fixer who fixes everyone in the end brilliantly. An edge-of-your seat experience, and you will be perversely satisfied when the bad guys get theirs in the end. Right over might. Well-put together movie.
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"The Verdict" meets "Erin Brockovich" with mostly satisfying
Steven Hedge | Somewhere "East of Eden" | 10/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"George Clooney once again shows us the Hollywood powerhouse he is as lead actor and producer of this engaging film.
While the film is essentially well-written and extremely well-acted, it offers nothing new to the corporate thriller genre and most of Amazon's comments in their review are dead on accurate. The film is essentially a mystery that involves corporate baddies trying to screw over the little guy by covering up a danger to the public. We've seen this plot before in film's like Erin Brockovich. In addition, we have a conscience driven lawyer who is tired of defending criminals he knows are guilty and another lawyer who is burnt out from playing the firm's "Janitor" and now wants to find some moral ground to land upon. Both lawyers are seeking some kind of redemption. The first has a nervous breakdown finding it and the second is forced to find it as his life spirals out of control. This is very much like Paul Newman's Oscar nominated role in the fabulous film The Verdict.
The script is clever, but all too predictable by the final third of the film. In fact, as generally satisfying as the finale is, it is something of a letdown too. Things are wrapped up far too neatly for what was a complex film with deep round central characters. Clooney's character has his nature revealed to us slowly as if peeling a rotten onion. Each layer is ultimately unsatisfying until we get to the core which seems damaged, but salvageable. I certainly expect another Oscar nomination for him and it's well-earned here. Tom Wilkinson as the manic depressive attorney who has an epiphany that his corporate clients should not get away with what they are doing is a bit over-the-top and even stereotypical, but still convincing in the end. A supporting Oscar nod is not out of the question, but I think he would be undeserving of it. Contrary to a majority of the reviews here, even Tilda (The Chronicles of Narnia) Swinton's controlling corporate bigwig who lies to herself to justify her actions is a deeper character than most give credit for her being. Her avoidance of actually saying, "Kill (fill in the blank)" coupled with her sweating fit scene clearly demonstrates a believably conflicted individual. I would not be surprised to see an Oscar nod for supporting actress come her way. Even Sydney Pollack, sometimes director (but better actor), is very convincing here and he also serves as co-producer with Clooney. These generally terrific performances nearly make up for a somewhat flat ending.
Credit must be given to first time director James Gilroy who adapted the "Bourne" books to film and wrote the screenplay for this film. He handles his actors well in that he knows what he wants, but also trusts their instincts to deliver what they believe are their character's true emotions. His directing style in unobtrusive and that greatly benefits this particular kind of film. His lack of coming up with a more complex, less tidy ending is his only major flaw in this otherwise outstanding film that is certainly worth your trip to your local theater or Blockbuster when it becomes available on DVD."
The Bad and the Beautiful
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 10/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tony Gilroy has already proven that he can weave/write a great story via his writing for the "Bourne" franchise. And the striking thing about "Michael Clayton" is how Gilroy has written ironic, conflicted, complicated characters that are at once "good" (and in the world that Gilroy has created here...this is in itself a term that is up for interpretation) yet are often bad as in unethical, mean, misanthropic. These characters can and do betray themselves and others: There's no one to truly love or hate, from Sydney Pollack's quietly devious law firm CEO, to Tom Wilkinson's holy madman of an ace courtroom defense attorney, to Tilda Swinton as a tricky senior partner in nice suits that peel off to reveal sweaty armpits and a gift for rationalization. Even our hero, Michael Clayton as portrayed by George Clooney is a loser: a 12 year veteran at his law firm who is utilized as a bag man, a fixer usually dispatched to do what amounts to private eye work.: cleaning up the firm's client messes. Clayton is a failure both professionally and personally: a failure as a father, brother, husband and Clooney strikes just the right notes here as Clayton struggles, fights to regain his dignity both as an officer of the court and more importantly as a father and a human being. The central plot revolves around a large chemical firm's responsibility for sickness and deaths in a farm community and because Gilroy weaves and bobs among the big ensemble cast and among the various plot points, I was hard pressed to figure out just exactly what was going on for the first half hour. But this is to Gilroy's credit: he refuses to foreshadow or explain thus adding texture and ambiguity to the film. Moral and social dilemmas multiply as "Michael Clayton" races to its exciting denouement: a denouement that satisfies both emotionally and morally. Yet all is not as it seems here as Gilroy manages to leave a small festering wound of deceit and decay not quite healed: ready to re-open and re-infect itself. "
An Intense, Skillfully Written, Directed and Acted Thriller
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'The truth can be adjusted' is the official tag line for this brilliant film MICHAEL CLAYTON, a film that deserves and demands audience attention to appreciate all of the layers of complexities of thought and message while delivering a slick, brooding, polished piece of cinematic art. First time director is highly regarded writer Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Cutting Edge, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Identity, The Devil's Advocate, Proof of Life, Dolores Claiborne, etc) who understands the tension of suspense films and here adds to that entertainment element the key ingredients of social and philosophical statements. It is a film that works on many levels.
Michael Clayton (George Clooney, in one of his finest moments) is a lawyer with a major firm headed by tough yet compassionate CEO Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack, finally in top form as an actor), but Michael's position in the firm has been reduced to a 'fixer/janitor', a man who cleans up messes that are always part of legal cases. Michael is cool, brilliant, but is struggling with his own demons of gambling addiction, inherited debt from covering for his wasted alcoholic/druggie brother's failure as a restaurateur, and a divorced man trying to relate to his son. When a long term law suit against a major chemical corporation comes to a head, the chief lawyer for the case Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) falls victim to the pressure of the case, and while he holds the key to the truths involved, he disintegrates into a manic depressive state. The chemical company's lawyer Karen Crowder (a brilliant Tilda Swinton) struggles to please her Board of Directors in a plea bargain that is backed by all manner of lies and crimes. It is Michael Clayton that persists in 'fixing' and cleaning up the case, uncovering a massive tragedy the company has been shielding. To say more (and there is SO much more to tell!) would spoil the development of this nail-biting plot.
Every actor involved in this film is superb, thanks in large part to the sensitive direction of Tony Gilroy. Clooney proves he is one of our more well rounded actors on the screen today, Wilkinson continues to prove his mettle as a character actor par excellence, and Swinton is so fine in this tough role that she leaves the audience staggering. Watching MICHAEL CLAYTON restores faith in just how fine Hollywood movies can be. It is sure to be on the list in many categories come Awards time. Grady Harp, October 07 "
Entertaining within limits
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 10/28/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
If "Michael Clayton" didn't seem like quite so obvious a rehash of Sidney Lumet`s "The Verdict," I might be inclined to recommend it more highly. The basic premise of both films revolves around a dissolute legal type who achieves personal redemption when he lands on the "right" side of a class action lawsuit. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the best thing to be said for the makers of "Michael Clayton" is that, if they had to find a movie to emulate, they at least chose one worth emulating.
Michael Clayton is no longer a practicing attorney himself but rather a "fixer" or "bagman" for a powerful legal firm, a man whose job it is to troubleshoot or run interference for any potential problems that might arise in one of its many cases. As with most such protagonists, Clayton spends so much time at his job that he doesn't have much of a personal life going for him: he's a divorced father with a serious gambling problem, a drug-addicted brother, and a failed business that has him in hock to the tune of $80,000. One of the firm's biggest clients is a chemical company whose powerful weed killing formula has allegedly resulted in serious medical conditions and even death for some of the farmers and their families who've come in contact with it. Clayton is called into action when the lead attorney for the defense suddenly goes berserk at a taped hearing, stripping off his clothes and launching into a Howard Beale-like rant for the other side. As he delves further into the case, Clayton undergoes a metamorphosis from cynical corporate water-carrier to enlightened populist do-gooder, finding personal redemption and fulfillment by helping the common man in his fight for justice.
"Michael Clayton" is, for the most part, a solid legal thriller, serious, intelligent and extremely well-served in the acting department. The "little man vs. vile corporation" theme has been pretty much played out by this time, but there are enough twists and turns in the plot and enough decent red herrings to keep us interested at least on a superficial level. The story goes through periods of murkiness when it isn't always clear what exactly is going on, but writer/director Tony Gilroy manages to straighten out most of the confusion in time for the finale. The moody score, bleak winter settings and dank cinematography all contribute to the chilly atmosphere that permeates the film.
In a role tailor-made for his acting style - stoic yet heartfelt, rugged yet vulnerable - George Clooney carries the weight of the film on his sturdy shoulders. The gifted Tilda Swinton doesn't fare quite so well with her character - a ruthless, emotionally unstable career woman with no personal life and no romantic prospects, a character, quite frankly, that feels just a trifle out-of-date in the year 2007. Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack and Michael O'Keefe excel in minor roles.
"Michael Clayton" is a proficient, professional legal drama that never cuts as deeply or touches the heart as profoundly as one would like for it to do. Still, compared to most other cinematic offerings around at the moment, this is substantial, if not exactly sumptuous, movie going fare."
The Miracle Worker
Chris Pandolfi | Los Angeles, CA | 10/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Michael Clayton" is a magnetic, engaging film, with a plot so intriguing that you find yourself absorbed within the first five minutes. Here's a story that can't be defined by a single genre; while it is above all a drama, so much more is being presented. Parts of it work like a thriller while other parts work like a social commentary, and these in turn make for a pseudo-morality play that requires a little extra observance on the audience's part. And that's a good thing, simply because not all stories should make everything clear. This film is intelligent, not only because the plot relies on strategic obscurity, but also because logical thinking is needed in order to understand it. This is not an escapist film--absolutely nothing will be hand delivered to us.
George Clooney plays the title character, and he gives Clayton a restrained yet powerful presence that was truly fascinating. This is no small task, considering the direction his life is going in: Clayton was once a highly respected trail lawyer, but his talent for negotiating has reduced him to take an unrecognized, poorly paid position. He basically does the dirty work for one of New York's most prestigious law firms, co-owned by Marty Bach (Sidney Pollack). Clayton cleans up legal messes by talking directly to plaintiffs and defendants and striking up deals. Clayton considers himself a janitor, a Mr. Fix-It, a miracle worker; he bends the rules in exactly the right ways to avoid exactly the right people. When it comes to other people's problems, he's the one everyone turns to.
But when it comes to his own problems, he needs a lot of help. A gambling addiction is established, as are financial problems--he owes quite a bit of money on a failing bar, which is co-owned by his drug-addicted brother, Timmy (David Lansbury). For obvious reasons, Clayton was forced to finance the business by himself, which required him to hock virtually every item he owned. On the bright side, he has a fairly good relationship with his son, Henry (Austin Williams), who greatly enjoys reading fantasy novels. Clayton drives Henry to school one morning, and on the way, Henry raves about the book he's reading, explaining each character's significance with childish zeal; Clayton listens, realizing that his son is actually giving an insightful description of life in general. It was a brief but wonderful scene proving how casual profound statements can seem.
The film's main focus is a legal dispute between Clayton's law firm and a chemical company (which happens to be Bach's most important client). Coming to its defense is Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), a litigator whose career depends on negotiating a multimillion-dollar settlement. But this will not be so easy to accomplish; attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) complicates matters by interfering with the case. He believes that the chemical company is responsible for poisoning the population, and he claims to have the evidence to prove it. Because his conscience is guilt-ridden over keeping his mouth shut, he loses his rational state of mind, becoming a manic, paranoid, and seemingly incomprehensible wreck. A severe emotional spasm was caught on tape--while at work in Milwaukee, he stripped completely naked, after which he ran through the parking lot.
Thus begins a taut, suspenseful, and compelling quest for the truth. Part of the quest leads to the discovery of Anna (Merritt Wever), a young woman who lost some of her family to the chemical poisoning. For some bizarre reason, Edens feels responsible for her, and he shows this through incessant phone calls and cryptic messages. Clayton is initially unwilling to believe anything Edens has to say, simply because he's acting erratically. But as the film progresses, he begins to question himself. Could Edens have been on to something? Is it possible that his odd conversations were more than mere ramblings? Was he sane, after all? Unbeknownst to Clayton, getting the answers to these questions will mean endangering Edens' life.
Crowder, meanwhile, is busy on her own quest, which turns out to be more stressful than she anticipated. There are key shots in this film showing her in panic mode: she hyperventilates in a hotel bathroom, her hands shaking, her armpits soaked with sweat. There are also moments of her standing in front of a mirror, practicing her speeches; most of these shots are inter-cut with actual meetings, in which a subtle yet significant lack of confidence undermines her delivery. Swinton made this character her own, turning Crowder into one of the film's most fascinating characters. A quiet desperation is visible on her face, and it's obvious that she's trying to hide it. She wants to be a professional: shrewd, capable, and strong-willed, unwilling to back down from a challenge.
The fact that I can gather this much from so few characters is a good sign. A clear, specific level of character development is vital for a film like "Michael Clayton," especially since the genre spectrum is broad. Well-defined characters make for a much more engrossing story; thank goodness this film includes a number of them. And despite what some people say, a complicated plot is not necessarily a deterrent. This film proves that some stories need to be richly detailed, if not for clarity, then for establishing the climactic finish. The ending of "Michael Clayton" is one of the year's most satisfying, a perfect blend of deception and emotional resolution. That alone makes the film worth recommending."