You would be forgiven for getting a bit lost for the first few minutes of watching Michael Clayton. It shifts back and forth in time and there’s not much in the way of exposition, and the directorial style is of that very dry, understated variety that tends to be confusing unless things are explained very clearly, which they’re not.
Tony Gilroy’s initially bewildering thriller introduces our titular (anti-)hero, George Clooney, who is a fixer for a large law firm. Said firm is dealing with a class action lawsuit on behalf of an agricultural pharmaceuticals giant, and the lawyer in charge of the case (Tom Wilkinson) seems to be having some sort of breakdown.
Meanwhile, the agri-pharm’s general counsel, Tilda Swinton, realises that Wilkinson has obtained some confidential – and damning – information that threatened the multi-billion-dollar case.
The film comes together pretty quickly after that, and develops into a tense game of assassination attempts, narrow escapes and frantic phone calls. It’s not an action movie, though, and relies instead on the exceptional performances from its stellar cast.
Apparently some critics thought it was a true story, which would be far-fetched but not completely unreasonable. Michael Clayton was nominated for six Oscars and – for once – that’s pretty plausible, too.