Michael Clayton is an ex-Assistant District Attorney who now works as a fixer for a corporate law firm. When his old friend and mentor seemingly has a psychological break while defending another corporate giant he is called in to “handle” the situation.
I must admit that this film had me hooked right from the incredibly intense monologue from Tom Wilkinson that opens the film. It plays out like a corporate Cold War film; the fact is that the plot will be very familiar to anyone who has seen a few legal dramas and the conclusion has a definite air of inevitability about it; but it’s the journey there that makes it so worthwhile. Wilkinson is superb as the corporate slave who has a life-changing catharsis, as are George Clooney as the complex and morally ambiguous Clayton and Tilda Swinton as the immoral but anxiety-riddled executive. It has no pointless action sequences and no gimmicks or twists; it’s simply an very well written, extremely well acted and attractively and intelligently directed film full of interesting characters and excellent dialogue. Even the portrayal of Clayton’s home life – which is usually cinematic poison – is realistic and unsentimental.
Very much in the tradition of the likes of All The President’s Men, Michael Clayton is one of the best straightforward and unpretentious low-key thriller I’ve seen in recent years.