Michael Clayton tells a story of imperfect characters caught a constant struggle to define their moral compass in the high-powered world of law.
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) plays a “fixer” at Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. If there is dire problem, Clayton is often the last line of defense. Clayton, however, deadpans when he’s referred to as a miracle worker. Instead, he prefers the term “janitor.” Whether it’s a high-profile client who needs to cover up a hit-and-run or a lead partner who has run amok, Clayton has found a niche in telling people what they don’t want to hear, and despises every minute of it.
Perhaps that’s because his own personal life is a mess. He’s divorced and has trouble connecting with his own child, who he has scattered visitation rights with. He’s also neck-deep in debt due to a failed restaurant venture and because of his penchant for losing money at the poker tables.
His professional life is also in shambles when fellow-fixer Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) attempts to sink his own clients (U/North) in a class action suit by disseminating damning evidence across enemy lines. Clayton’s task now is to stop Arthur, or he will be left out in the cold with his debt. Meanwhile, U/North’s in-house counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) stops at nothing to stop Arthur.
Crowder, Clayton and Arthur are supposedly playing on the same team, but the line is quickly blurred because of the choices between right and wrong. On the one end, Arthur attempts to make amends with the plaintiffs on the other side of the class-action suit. They are the victims and Arthur, U/North and Kenner is on the wrong side. Then there is Crowder, who has long since turned a blind eye to U/North’s indiscretions. She does this, not because she is an evil character bent on destroying all who get in her way, but because she is a high-paid litigator, and when hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line, there are certain decisions that will always seem more appealing than others.