Michael Clayton is a legal suspense thriller that manages to get our attention from the very moment that the picture appears on the screen.
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) has a lot of issues here that seem to take him in every which direction. For one, one of his co-workers, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) has suffered a breakdown. The other thing going on here is that an agricultural conglomerate client–U-North–is on the opposite end of a class action lawsuit. What Michael doesn’t know is that U North knows Arthur managed to get his hands on a confidential document. This particular document could ruin their case and U-North’s general counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) knows this. When she informs U-North CEO Don Jeffries (Ken Howard), a hit gets placed on Arthur.
Michael is the company’s fixer or janitor if you will. What this means is that he’s the guy Kenner, Bach, and Ledeen turns to when it comes both connections and legal loopholes. If there’s a client with a legal problem, he’s the guy to take care of it. Even if it means leaving a poker game, Michael is going to rush out and clean up the mess. Basically, if he’s showing up at your door, I would start to worry.
Michael also starts investigating Arthur’s sudden death the thrills continue to play out. Sooner or later, the facts reveal themselves. It’s a credit to the script and the performances. Everything in this film manages to come together. It’s a credit to Tony Gilroy’s screenplay and direction. It’s also a credit to James Newton Howard’s Oscar-nominated score and how it’s able to lift the film up. Again, there’s no shortage of thrills.
It’s no secret that Tony Gilroy’s thriller holds up well over a decade later. This is a film that picked up a total of seven Oscar nominations. Only one nominee (Tilda Swinton) would take home a win. Of course, it’s hard to argue with the Academy’s choices. The film had to compete against the likes of Juno, There Will Be Blood, and the big winner, No Country for Old Men. George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton, deserved their Oscar nominations. As far as Clooney’s performance, it’s also the first of three performances that earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The other two include Up in the Air and The Descendants. In another universe, we could be discussing Denzel Washington!
Michael Clayton is certainly worth the rewatch.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Tony Gilroy
CAST: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack