'Michael Clayton' Tells of Suspicion and Suspense Michael Clayton is a smart and suspenseful legal thriller about desperate men searching for redemption in a cold and ruthless world. Issues like corporate malfeasance lurk around the movie's edges, along with themes of moral responsibility and regeneration.
NPR logo

'Michael Clayton' Tells of Suspicion and Suspense

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15027435/15027284" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Michael Clayton' Tells of Suspicion and Suspense

Review

Movies

'Michael Clayton' Tells of Suspicion and Suspense

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15027435/15027284" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

A screenwriter who had a hand in all the "Bourne Identity" movies has taken on a new identity of his own. Tony Gilroy has become a director.

Film critic Kenneth Turan has a review of Gilroy's new film, which is called "Michael Clayton."

KENNETH TURAN: "Michael Clayton" is a script Tony Gilroy has been saving for himself. It's a smart and suspenseful legal thriller about desperate men searching for redemption in a cold and ruthless world.

(Soundbite of movie, ""Michael Clayton")

Mr. TOM WILKINSON (Actor): (As Arthur Edens) I have blood on my hands.

Mr. GEORGE CLOONEY (Actor): (As Michael Clayton) You are the senior litigating partner of one of the largest, most respected law firms in the world. You are a legend.

Mr. WILKINSON: (As Arthur Edens) I'm an accomplice.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Michael Clayton) You're a manic-depressive.

Mr. WILKINSON: (As Arthur Edens) I am Shiva, the god of death.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Michael Clayton) Let's get out of Milwaukee. We'll talk about it.

TURAN: Gilroy starts with this kind of heightened and dramatic dialogue - his ability to get people talking articulately while they're at a fever pitch of anxiety and concern. And his break-neck style poses through the story no stragglers allowed.

In "Michael Clayton," Gilroy has been helped by an excellent cast, starting with George Clooney as the title character - a fixer for a powerful New York law firm. Providing excellent support are Tom Wilkinson as a man who was, at once, Clayton's close friend and biggest crisis. And then there is Tilda Swinton as the in-house attorney for an agro-chemical giant.

(Soundbite of movie, ""Michael Clayton")

Ms. TILDA SWINTON (Actress): (As Karen Crowder) This is totally unacceptable. This is a $3-billion class action lawsuit. In the morning, I have to call my board. I have to tell them that the architect of our entire defense has been arrested for running naked in a snowstorm, chasing the plaintiff through a parking lot.

Mr. CLOONEY: (As Michael Clayton) Come on, Karen. You didn't hire this guy because of his low-key regularity. You hired him because he's a killer and because he's brilliant, and because he's crazy enough to grind a way on a case like this for six years without a break.

Ms. SWINTON: (As Karen Crowder) Excuse me. We paid for his time.

TURAN: Michael Clayton has been at home in this cold world for 17 years, taking pride in his role as the guy you call when calls need to be made. Issues like corporate malfeasance lurk around the edges of "Michael Clayton," along with themes of moral responsibility, conscience and regeneration.

But first and foremost, this is a Cracker Jack tale of suspicion and suspense. Like the "Bourne Identity" and its sequels, it relishes revealing how the powerful operate when they think no one is looking.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan is always looking. He reviews film for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.