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82

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

User Score
7.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 267 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.) Collapse
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 154
  1. Oct 8, 2013
    10
    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
    9
    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. Dec 20, 2013
    8
    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
  4. Apr 13, 2012
    7
    Very solid performances by the cast. The flaw of this though is that it's a little confusing at times and it never really peaks until the end of the film (around the last 20 minutes of the film). Its still a good movie though, I enjoyed watching it. Expand
  5. Jun 7, 2013
    6
    Lawyer Michael Clayton cleans up tricky legal problems for his companies wealthiest clients. After years on the job he’s had enough of, he’s middle-aged, divorced and realizes that his career is going nowhere but remains dependent on the company thanks to his gambling troubles and a failed attempt at opening a bar. When one of the companies partners goes AWOL after working on a case for six years Clayton is sent to get him back on the job but soon begins to unravel an uncomfortable truth about the case.

    The movie forgoes action for the most part, instead choosing to let the truth behind the case gradually unravel through glimpses at legal documents and out of context conversations that really require the viewer to concentrate. Each of the major characters comes across as well rounded with some good performance throughout but the movie is held together by George Clooney, who remains a terrific screen presence and his characters gradual development plays a huge part in the movies overall success.

    I have heard Michael Clayton described as a thriller, and that is perhaps the wrong word to use, but it is certainly an interesting movie and well worth investing two hours of your time.
    Expand
  6. Jan 26, 2011
    6
    Just an ok film. Nothing special. Not sure why it got an Academy nomination for best movie, I can understand the acting as it was great and even the direction was top notch but the story was just really mundane. Not that it was bad, just nothing original. Expand
  7. Dec 21, 2011
    2
    Extremely boring....I could hardly stay awake enough to pay attention. Do not see this late at night or after more than one drink....you will soon be sound asleep. Expand

See all 154 User Reviews

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