Michael Clayton is a vague, corporate espionage procedural masquerading as a thriller. It stars George Clooney as the titular Michael Clayton, a ďfixerĒ for one of the nationís most powerful law firms. When one of their clients has a problem, they call on him to solve it under the table. Thereís a lot of talk about how good Clayton is at his job, but when the movie opens we find him telling a client thereís nothing he can do to help him and from there he jumps into the movieís big corporate corruption case and seems to spend most of the film in way over his head. Either Michael Clayton is a tremendous fraud, or weíre simply catching him at his absolute worst.
The movieís big trouble starts when one of the firmís lead attorneys, a man named Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) goes crazy and strips in the middle of one of his most important depositions. Clayton is sent to find out what happened and finds Arthur wracked with guilt. Heís in the midst of defending a company called U/North from a massive class action lawsuit, but decides in mid-stream heís on the wrong side. Michael refuses to believe thereís actually a problem, insisting instead that Arthur is simply off his medication.
Things slowly spiral out of control, thereís a fuzzy allusion to some sort of wrongdoing on U/Northís part which drives Arthur to switch sides. Caught in the middle Michael wanders through the film more concerned with his personal problems than his job, while things get worse all around him, or so it appears. The problem is that none of itís very interesting. Itís never quite clear what U/North has done thatís so heinous, thereís a lot of talk about failed small farms and messed up testing, but thereís never a good reason to care about any of that it. Itís also hard to root about Michael, since heís just not all that interesting. Heís a recovering gambling addict, he has a kid, heís in debt, so what? He has problems. Great. Whatís the point? Michael ends up being kind of a do nothing with dubious and unclear morals. Claytonís idea of ďfixingĒ seems to be leaving a lot of messages on his clientís answering machine. Anything else he accomplishes is mere happenstance.
There is no point to Michael Clayton,itís a corporate mystery movie with nothing to latch on to. The filmís plot unfolds slowly and deliberately while Clooney grimaces and strides through the film with false confidence and thatíll probably be enough to convince critics that this is a smart, well-crafted thriller. Itís also a really boring thriller, one without any thrills, a film where even a car bomb is kind of a dud. I donít know about the rest of you, but Iíve had it with lawyers. Money hungry men in nice suits stopped being cool in 1982, and Michael Clayton doesnít do enough to bring it back again.
Reviewed By: Josh Tyler