Corporations have dominated America. And one day, they'll probably end up destroying it. That's what's already happening as seen through the eyes of Michael Clayton, a brilliant legal thriller with so of the most haunted heroes and evil villains in years. And the scariest part, its all real.
Michael Clayton (Clooney) is a "fixer" (or as one character puts it, a "janitor") for big corporations, cleaning up the messes they leave behind and trying to attain their good image. Fellow corporate lawyer Alex (excellent Tom Wilkinson) feels a battle of conscience with his profession after discovering a deadly secret about the corporation he has defended for years and begins to snap. Is he mad, or trying to say something important? Only Michael seems to understand the true nature of his craziness, and at stake is the good name of a major chemical company and the lives of over 400 people. The brilliance of the film is that its a thriller, but not to overstated. It's resembles the great political thrillers of the 70s like The French Connection and All the President's Men who let you get to know the characters for a while and understand how their minds work and then jolt you up with random intense violence and thrills. A film like this hopefully make Americans more aware of what happens behind the scenes of big corporate America and big fancy law firms every day.
Tony Gilroy's directing give the film a tight, tense look and his writing is filled with memorable lines ("Does it look like I'm Negotiating?"). The decision to make it travel back in time and back to the future immerse the audience in the story. But, the ensemble cast is truly winning here. Wilkinson is convincing as a man loosing his mind and Tilda Swintion is quietly creepy as the evil head of the chemical company. But Clooney is truly brilliant. His performance helps him escape the dreaded pretty-boy reputation. It's those sad sorry eyes and ambivalent smile in the final scene that so brilliantly show a man finally understanding the atrocities he's unwittingly defended for years for millions of dollars and the feeling of freedom finally gripping him.