Michael Clayton (George Clooney) works as a "fixer" in a Manhattan law firm. Here, by the encouragement of the firm's senior Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) he unwillingly does the job he dislikes, even after being stuck up deeply in a debt his brother left him with, even after failing in his marriage. To make matters worse, one of the lawyers at the firm Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) while representing a Chemical company (U/North), involved in a multi-billion dollar class action suit, has a mental breakdown due to lack of medication. When the firm calls in Michael to handle the situation, he discovers the proof that Arthur has against U/North concerning the case that can get both of them killed and if revealed can completely put the company in jeopardy.
When U/North understands the situation, their lead attorney Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) takes the lead of "containing" the situation. What happens next is a great, weird, realistic and a worthy experience...
Michael Clayton, now it can be told, is not that kind of cliched thriller film one might expect. It's completely unique in it's style and is that kind of thriller that deserves full attention of the audience. Michael Clayton has no chase scenes, no gun-fights, no explosions (save one). The entire film is less action and more talk. Still, the film surprisingly delivered some serious thrills. Michael Clayton is more of the "experience" than the story itself. The plot is simple yet Tony Gilroy forces us to watch the film closely by making it a little indirect. The film's pace is slow, but the excitement never ends and that's the main point. The character detail itself is incredible. Like Michael is a fixer, ex-husband, father, brother, friend, businessman. He is all these different persons at times when he has to be and Clooney is perfect in every role. Wilkinson gives an equally ground-breaking performance of a nutty lawyer who after learning the company's fraudulent involvement in the case is enlightened by the fact that the defense is wrong and the work of "adjusting the truth" that the firm does is wrong. Eventually he sees himself as a part of this wrong and tries to get out of this job. Tilda Swinton in her negative role of Karen Crowder is a woman who is ready to do anything to save the company. She has even sold her soul to the devil and doesn't care what happens next. Her realistic performance won her an Academy Award in her supporting role.
What's more important is that how Gilroy is presenting the film. Yes, it's long and indirect. But saying that will only suggest the fact that this film tries in vain to be different. Yes it does, not in vain, but in a style better than James Bond and you don't need those silly gadgets to make you safe. It's a mind game, a film that goes in the head of all it's major characters and although the film's name suggests that Michael is the only one to take on the biggest part of the whole emotional burden then it's not entirely true. For example, the film specifically shows us Karen practicing hard, as if to impress, for her speech or for her interview. While she is giving the speech or answering the questions, Gilroy puts some excerpts of her practicing it. This shows what kind of person she is: A hard working woman trying to save her job and the company, trying hard to be "Perfect".
In conclusion, Michael Clayton is a masterpiece. But unfortunately, it won't impress everyone. If you love serious drama that involves smart, to-the-point dialog and words-speak-louder-than-action kind of stuff then you are in for a treat.
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