George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, an indispensable “fixer” at a high-priced law firm where he cleans up messes no one wants to touch and operates in the shadows with ethically questionable clients. “I’m not a miracle worker,” Clayton says to one client. “I’m a janitor.” Clayton’s personal life is messy: divorced and in debt with gambling losses and someone trying to kill him. Things get even messier as his firm negotiates a high-stakes merger while defending a corporate client accused of polluting in a multibillion-dollar class action. One of its lawyers, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), knows the company is guilty and has a nervous breakdown during a deposition. Clayton is dispatched by his boss Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack) to bring Edens home and learns about Edens’ belief in the company’s guilt. Tilda Swinton plays Karen Crowder, the chief legal executive for the company who knows some secrets that could derail the case.
Trivia: Denzel Washington was offered the title role, but turned it down because he was reluctant to work with first-time director Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplay. Clooney initially declined for the same reason, but changed his mind after meeting with Gilroy.
See our August 2018 cover story: “The 25 Greatest Legal Movies.”
Attribution: Text by Kevin Davis; art by Sara Wadford and cinemamaterial.com; gallery by Andy Lefkowitz.