There's plenty of drama inherent in the law, and Michael Clayton captures the risks and great dangers of high-stakes legal battles.

George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a "fixer" for a prestigious law firm. Clayton is the person who always seems to know a guy, who knows how to make a mess go away; as he says early in the film, "I'm not a miracle worker, I'm a janitor." Clayton is also world-weary, in debt for thousands after a restaurant with his brother fell through, concerned about a merger of his firm that could leave him out in the cold, and he has a gambling problem. And at the film's opening, as he wanders the countryside his car explodes.

We then jump back four days earlier. Clayton's latest mess is a big one: Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) had been chief counsel for Clayton's firm representing chemical company United North in a $3 billion class action lawsuit. Apparently Edens stopped taking his mediation, because he stripped down naked during a deposition and went running into the street. As Clayton tries to fix things, he learns that Edens may not be as mad as he seems -- and that makes him more dangerous.

Clayton isn't the only player in this game. Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), the chief counsel for United North, isn't happy with Clayton's handling of the situation -- and she is willing to go outside the law for her resolution. And Clayton's boss Marty (Sydney Pollack) just wants things resolved in his client's favor.

Michael Clayton features a truly superlative cast in a compelling story. While George Clooney is the star (and title character) of this movie, he doesn't overshadow everyone else -- even with his fine performance. Tom Wilkinson is amazing as the attorney whose madness or conscience leads him to revolt against his work -- while proclaiming, "I am Shiva, god of death." Swinton is terrific as a lawyer who seems frail and nervous in private, practicing in front of a mirror to put on a great public face. The movie starts a little slow, but as the different problems and threads come together, Michael Clayton becomes quite gripping. (The dvd extras are pretty basic: two commentaries and a few deleted scenes.)

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

1 comment:

Chad Cloman said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It had me guessing all the way to the end.