Michael Clayton (played by George Clooney) is “the fixer” for a top firm of New York lawyers. He’s the one that they ask to clean up the mess created by the crimes and misdemeanours of their corporate and millionaire clients. Or, to use the perjorative term he himself prefers in a moment of self-loathing, Clayton is a bag man. That puts him just above the hired assassin and dodgy accountant in the corporate food chain. Or, as his fellow lawyer and friend Arthur Edens says, Clayton is a bad man. And he is someone who has never let ethics get in the way of feeding an expensive gambling habit.
Everything is set up for an ethical challenge and a bit of moral redemption — will Clayton stop Edens blowing off the successful settlement of a class action law suit? In this artfully produced, noirish thriller I could believe that story line. However the political backdrop of the film — the machinations of an evil agro-chemical firm — were less believable, for two reasons.
Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of the evil corporation’s head-honcho lawyer control-freak was way over the top. She appeared to have got stuck in her role as the wicked Snow Queen of Narnia. Maybe there was a message here about what women have to do to get on in business, but it escaped me.
Also too much attention was centred on Clooney (yes, that really is possible) and not enough on what it was the evil agro-chemical firms were supposed to have done; the terrible things that happen in real life such as the manufacture of deadly poisons which cause cancer and other illnesses. The film could have spared us a few more of its 120 minutes telling us exactly how deadly corporations can be.