Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 269 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house "fixer" at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. At the behest of the firm’s co-founder Marty Bach, Clayton, a former prosecutor from a family of cops, takes care of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen’s dirtiest work. Clayton cleans up clients’ messes, handling anything from hit-and-runs and damaging stories in the press to shoplifting wives and crooked politicians. Burned out and discontented in his job, Clayton is inextricably tied to the firm. At the agrochemical company U/North, the career of in-house chief counsel Karen Crowder rests on the settlement of the suit that Kenner, Bach & Ledeen is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. When the firms top litigator, the brilliant Arthur Edens, has an apparent breakdown and tries to sabotage the entire case, Marty Back sends Michael Clayton to tackle this unprecedented disaster and in doing so, Clayton comes face to face with the reality of what he has become. (Warner Bros.) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 36
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 36
  3. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. 100
    I don't know what vast significance Michael Clayton has (it involves deadly pollution but isn't a message movie). But I know it is just about perfect as an exercise in the genre.
  2. 90
    This loving throwback to the paranoid thrillers of the ’70s is a beauty.
  3. Michael Clayton is a here’s-how-it-happened drama, cleverly but not over-elaborately structured.
  4. Mr. Gilroy hasn’t reinvented the legal thriller here, but I doubt that was his intention; at its best and most ambitious, the film plays less like a variation on a Hollywood standard than a reappraisal. It’s a modest reappraisal, adult, sincere, intelligent, absorbing; it entertains without shame.
  5. 80
    Quite possibly Clooney’s best effort to date.
  6. Has a slow build and a strong payoff, but George Clooney is the element that holds it together.
  7. Without the steadfast intelligence of Clooney's performance, Michael Clayton wouldn't work half as well as it does.

See all 36 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 23 out of 155
  1. Oct 8, 2013
    Many people have notions of what a 'fixer' may actually do, some see rubber gloves and cleaning up crime scenes, others may see smooth talking, good looking and suited up individuals who confidently go about their job as a sought after individual. But George Clooney plays a different sort of fixer, his character, Michael Clayton, is realistic in his approach to every part of his job, he isn't a miracle worker, nor does he make every problem disappear because at the end of the day, he simply cleans up the mess, but the bigger the mess, the more complex the clean-up. Clayton himself has problems of his own that he cannot sweep under the rug, while he may look the part, Clooney portrays a character who isn't everything he appears, he owes serious amounts of money to loan sharks after we discover his gambling habit, struggles with financing his life and desperately tries to repair his past mistakes but still creating new ones, all while taking on a big "mess". The law firm he works for is facing a crisis after one of its partners, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) has quite the mental breakdown in the midst of a massive court case which Arthur knows the company his firm is defending are guilty of their crimes, something Michael is desperately trying to amend. It's clear to see why we have the title named after our main character, it is focusing on the life a man leads who feels he has no purpose, a man who is taken for granted and then thrown to the side, something Clooney portrays through many forces and silent stares, while we also see how he tries to balance his life as a dad and a man with a job that he can't really explain to anyone, but he shares the screen with someone else who is confident in her job but masks her demons, lawyer for the big client, a client called UNorth being sued for illegal chemical dumping Karen Crowdor (Tilda Swinton), equally as cunning and potentially dangerous as Clayton. It's films like this where we look to the talent involved to realise they are the driving force of the film, the tension and chemistry they create while also taking from a sharp and smartly written piece from director and writer Tony Gilroy, who cleverly takes a sombre approach to have this business thriller being much more than it seems, there isn't realty an inspiring touch to leave you flabbergasted, but more about style and the performances, it focuses solely on the consequences of actions as we have many guilt-ridden characters with too much power on their hands. As mentioned, the performances are the standout moments of this film, Clooney proves his stability and grit while Swinton also shoes her worth as the sort of Yin to Clooney's Yang. It's a smart and complex film that stays intriguing thanks to its strong cast and compelling story. Expand
  2. Apr 1, 2013
    This movie relies on a perfect complicated-yet-understandable story and the type of acting that is completely grounded in reality. You don't see Clooney have wild ups and downs because his character wouldn't have them. Same with all other actors including the hit men. Just pros. No yelling or screaming. Scarily, this is probably how pro hitmen work. They don't act or look different. And Wilkenson plays a man in the mists of a manic episode perfrectly. His is the only character that acts in extremes, but believe me, it's very realistic. Expand
  3. Jun 8, 2014
    I typically find most George Clooney movies to be a tad boring, but this one was certainly not boring at all. Rather, it managed to have my attention from beginning to end trying to follow everything that was going on. For starters, the plot is a bit confusing and convoluted at times and that would be a bad thing if they did not resolve my questions at the end. Throughout, the tension is always present and keeps you on the edge of your seat as more and more questions get answered and the puzzle pieces start coming together. At the end of the day, it is amazing just how far some will go to keep their dirty secrets from being aired and, really, that is what this one is about. The film summary on many sites is somewhat accurate, but really fails to capture what this one is truly about. The writing here is also very sharp and the cinematography is very stylish as well. George Clooney is also great here, as well as Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton in smaller roles. Then again, the acting as a whole was very good. Finally, the monologue delivered by Wilkinson at the beginning (and later finished as the story truly begins) is also phenomenally written and delivered. It really sets the tone for the rest of the film. Overall, "Michael Clayton" is a good, tense thriller that is a bit slow and confusing at times, but is undoubtedly satisfying. Expand
  4. Dec 20, 2013
    A very atmospheric and exceptionally well written drama that doubles as a thriller, Michael Clayton will grip any intelligent moviegoer until the end. The plot delves into corporation conspiracies, murder, and deceit galore, and it's all played out brilliantly. The cast is great and the direction is precise, but I couldn't help but feel that something was missing. I previously gave this movie a 9, but as time went on I began to realize that it's actually somewhat limited. It works almost perfectly when you're watching it, but it doesn't really linger on the mind when it's over. It also could have been more kinetic. I'm not saying that I wanted full on shoot outs, but a couple of fights should have been thrown in for good measure. Complaints aside, it's still very, very good. Forgot to mention how beautifully shot the film, but you'll see that for yourself. Expand
  5. Nov 16, 2011
    Although this movie is a little dry at times and the exact thing that the film makers are trying to say seems unclear to me, Michael Clayton is a solid movie with some good themes, relatable characters and some real good performances. Clooney is good throughout and his performance in the last scene is FANTASTIC and a must see. Recommended. Expand
  6. Apr 2, 2012
    I was pretty confused right off the back. It was over acted( like that is a surprise.) Still it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't very interesting. The ending picked up when everything began to connect. Expand
  7. Dec 21, 2011
    Extremely boring....I could hardly stay awake enough to pay attention. Do not see this late at night or after more than one will soon be sound asleep. Expand

See all 155 User Reviews