'Michael Clayton' Synopsis

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 (Sydney Pollack), 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. Though 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 (Tilda Swinton) rests on the settlement of the suit that Kenner, Bach & Ledeen is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. When the firm's top litigator, the brilliant Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), has an apparent breakdown and tries to sabotage the entire case, Marty Bach sends Michael Clayton to tackle this unprecedented disaster and, in doing so, Clayton comes face to face with the reality of who he has become.

George Clooney stars in the title role of Michael Clayton, a "fixer" at Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, a top Manhattan law firm. A former criminal prosecutor from a working-class neighborhood, Clayton is an anomaly at the white-shoe firm; in spite of his 15-year tenure, he has not been promoted to partner and probably never will be. His boss, Marty Bach, sees Clayton as an invaluable asset to the firm, but only in his "niche," one that is relegated to cleaning up the firm's sticky situations quickly and quietly. "While Michael is great at solving other people's problems, the film catches him at the apex of dissatisfaction with his career," says Clooney, who
also serves as an executive producer on the film. "He started out with ambitions of becoming a trial lawyer, but along the way what he really becomes is a bag man."

"Michael Clayton is a 45-year-old attorney who feels that he hasn't done everything that he could have done with his life; he's starting to think he should have done something else, or could have done better," says writer-director Tony Gilroy. "He's made some bad choices and a lot of compromises. He has come to the point in life where his next few decisions will determine everything about him.

"How we make those choices -- how fear, comfort, inertia and self preservation bend us to the wheel -- that's the fuel for the story," offers Gilroy. In the midst of his discontentment, Michael Clayton is sent to defuse Arthur Edens, Kenner, Bach & Ledeen's chief litigator. The defense architect for the U/North case, Arthur suddenly suffers a crisis of conscience after finding a "smoking gun" memo that exposes the client's moral turpitude. The character is played by Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson, who notes, "It is very much a 'road to Damascus' moment.

Arthur's an expert lawyer who has been at the top of his game for years, but comes to a realization that he's been defending a cancer." "Given the infinity of destructive moral choices that are made every day by people who know what they're doing is wrong, it's always amazed me that there aren't more whistleblowers. When you consider how much is wrong, how deep that wrong is, and how much of it's done by people who go home and pay their taxes and love their children, isn't it astonishing how few actually go off the deep end?" says Gilroy. "Tom's character is one of those magnificently intelligent madmen who can convince any judge, jury or plaintiff to drop or settle a case. It's why he's so good at what he does and makes the kind of money he makes.
But at the end of the day, what's the real cost?"

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