Looking for an intelligent legal thriller geared for adults? MICHAEL CLAYTON is one of the best of the last two decades.
George Clooney is the title character, a high priced fixer (think Ray Donovan) who's called in to help when his friend of many years, firm partner Arthur Edens, has a complete mental breakdown during a deposition.
Arthur (brilliant Tom Wilkinson) is the lead on a massive, billion dollar class action case, defending a chemical company that he knows is guilty.
Arthur breaks, stripping down in the middle of the meeting and professing love for someone on the other side of the lawsuit. It's out of the blue, manic and disastrous.
Especially since his firm is currently negotiating a very high stakes merger, featuring a very tightly wound Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) as their spokesperson during the deal.
Director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie) plays the owner of the law firm, Michael O'Keefe (Caddyshack) is Clayton's adversary within the firm and Denis O'Hare (This Is Us, American Horror Story) is a wealthy man who we meet early on, watching Clayton in full fixer mode.
The entire cast is excellent, with Clooney leading the way as a man torn between friendships and business who finds himself pulled deeper and deeper into a game with much higher stakes than he suspected.
Writer/Director Tony Gilroy even finds time to weave in a strong story-line about Clayton's alcoholic brother, who has left him high and dry financially in a restaurant opening.
Gilroy (Rogue One, The Bourne Identity, Nightcrawler) is one of my favorite writers and this was his first directing effort, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
Wilkinson (Selma, Batman Begins) was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor and he earned it. From the opening moments of his voiceover, he's unhinged, his mind spinning in 1000 directions as he explains his motivation.
Swinton won the Oscar for her role as Crowder. Her final showdown with Clooney provides a perfect ending to a tense build that Gilroy elevates for the full two hours.
The end credits are a great coda. I've never seen them handled quite like they are here. They're quiet, understated and somehow perfect.
I love this movie. MICHAEL CLAYTON gets an A+.