Michael Clayton

14 11 2007

Michael ClaytonThe partnership of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh has been a fruitful one — for every Ocean’s Eleven, there’s a Good Night, and Good Luck. waiting around the corner. Now, once again serving as executive producers, Clooney and Soderbergh have given us Michael Clayton, the directorial debut of screenwriter Tony Gilroy.

Michael Clayton (Clooney) is a “fixer” in a legal firm in New York, troubleshooting the unexpected and cleaning up other people’s messes. He doesn’t particularly enjoy his job, which seems closer to legal janitorial work than anything of great significance, and his personal life is spiralling out of control with a failed business venture, a gambling addiction and mounting debts. When Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), one of the firm’s top partners and an old friend of Clayton’s, has a spectacular manic episode during a filmed deposition, Clayton is once again relied upon to rectify the situation.

On the surface, this film concerns the kind of corporate greed that puts the bottom line ahead of ordinary people’s lives, but there’s something more fundamental going on here. Edens, through a series of rants brought about by his unmedicated bipolar disorder, talks about the filth and taint that he’s accumulated over the years in his role of defending the indefensible. On the other end of the spectrum is Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), the lead counsel for the company U/North (whom Edens was defending), who effectively sells her soul in order to please her masters, willing to sacrifice any moral code she may possess. Clayton seems somewhere in the middle, caught in an amoral malaise that seems both endless and futile.
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