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Michael Clayton is a 2007 Americanmarker dramatic film written and directed by Tony Gilroy and produced by Sydney Pollack. It stars George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack. It chronicles the attempts of attorney Michael Clayton to cope with a colleague's apparent mental breakdown and the corruption and murderous intrigue of a major client of his law firm being sued in a class action case involving toxic agrochemicals.

Plot summary

The hill Michael climbs to look at the horses.
The story opens as Michael Clayton (George Clooney), an attorney with a gambling problem, leaves a late night poker game. He works for the prestigious New York Citymarker law firm Kenner, Bach & Ledeen as a "fixer", someone who rectifies difficult situations, often through hazy and legally murky methods. Michael is summoned to meet with an anxious client who believes he has committed a hit and run. After Michael leaves, he pulls off to the side of the road after some aimless driving. When he leaves his car to look at some horses, his car blows up behind him.

The story then jumps back four days earlier, where the audience learns that Michael owes $75,000 to organized crime figures represented by loan shark Gabe Zabel (Bill Raymond), thanks in part to his gambling, and his failed attempt to open a bar with his brother Timmy (David Lansbury). Then he is called with the news that one of the firm's leading attorneys, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), had a bizarre outburst in the middle of a deposition in Milwaukeemarker involving a class action lawsuit against United Northfield (or U-North), an agricultural products conglomerate. Michael is sent to fix the situation, gets Arthur out of jail, but is unable to transport him back to New York before Edens escapes from his hotel in the middle of the night.

Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), U-North's general counsel, obtains Edens' briefcase and discovers that he came into possession of a confidential U-North document detailing the company's decision to manufacture a weed killer that it knew to be carcinogenic and to have the potential to enter the water supply of small farms, undetected. Karen soon learns that Edens is a manic depressive who is unwilling to commit himself to a mental health institution, and decides to hire two men (Robert Prescott, Terry Serpico) to follow him, including tapping his phone and installing bugs in his apartment. The surveillance collected eventually reveals that Edens is building a case against his former client, leading Karen to ask the team to permanently incapacitate him. They assassinate Edens in a manner that makes it look like he committed suicide.

Michael is saddened by the news of Arthur's death, but becomes suspicious upon learning that U-North was planning a settlement just a few days prior, and that Arthur had booked a flight for one of the plaintiffs, Anna (Merritt Wever). He learns from Anna that she told no one of her conversations with Edens, not even her attorney, arousing in Michael further suspicion regarding how his firm came to know of Arthur's conversations with the U-North class members. Michael manages to sneak into Edens' apartment, and discovers a receipt from a copy store. Upon investigation, he discovers that Arthur had ordered one thousand copies of the confidential U-North document be made. Michael takes a copy with him, but the two hit men are tailing him and inform Karen of the situation. Michael is about to show his boss, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), what he has discovered, only to be offered a renewal of his employment contract, as well as an $80,000 bonus that will cover his failed restaurant debt, although it comes with strings attached that prevent him from ever shaking down the firm.

As Michael plays poker that evening, returning to the film's opening, we see one of the hit men rigging his car with a bomb. Michael leaves the game, and receives a phone call summoning him to the meeting with the client in Westchester Countymarker who had committed a hit-and-run, as seen at the start of the movie. The audience now sees that he is being followed by the two men, but that they have trouble tailing him. The surveillance team, still off but near Michael's trail, detonates the remote bomb while he is out of the car. An unharmed but surprised Michael runs back to his car and throws his personal effects inside, thus faking his own death.

Later, at a U-North board meeting, Karen proposes approval of a new settlement agreement. Michael is waiting for her when she exits the conference, and informs her that he has access to copies of the U-North memo and that he knows about her role in Arthur's murder. He demands to be paid off personally by Crowder for his silence for $10 million. Karen reluctantly agrees, prompting Michael to reveal the cellphone in his pocket. As he walks away, detectives arrest Karen and U-North's chairman (Ken Howard). Clayton's brother, the NYPD detective, had been monitoring their conversation. Michael leaves the building and hails himself a cab. He tells the driver, "Give me $50 worth. Just drive." After a few minutes his face reveals a hint of a smile and then the film cuts to credits on black.



The railroad bridge where Michael's car explodes is the Moodna Viaductmarker in Cornwall, New Yorkmarker, which is actually in Orange Countymarker, not Westchester. Washingtonvillemarker, where Michael is said to have graduated from high school and where his father's birthday party takes place, is where writer and director Tony Gilroy himself attended high schoolmarker. Stewart Airportmarker, in nearby Newburghmarker, is also featured in the film. Also where Michael's brother picks him up is at the Rockland Plaza in Nanuet, New York.



The film premiered August 31, 2007, at the Venice Film Festival and was shown at the American Films Festival of Deauville on September 2, 2007, and at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker on September 7, 2007. It opened in the United Kingdommarker on September 28, 2007, and at the Dubai Film Festival in December 2007. The film opened in limited release in the United Statesmarker on October 5, 2007, and opened in wide release in the U.S. on October 12, 2007. The film grossed USD $10.3 million on the opening week. It was re-released on January 25, 2008. As of February 8, 2008, the film has grossed $45 million domestically, $92.6 million worldwide.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 19, 2008. The DVD contains deleted scenes and a commentary by writer/director Tony Gilroy. On March 11, 2008 the movie was also released on HD DVD.


Critical reception

The film received strong positive reviews from critics. As of November 2008, the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 184 reviews, some of whom thought it was a dramatization of a true story. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 82 out of 100, based on 36 reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave it an 'A' saying that it was "better than good, it just about restores your faith." Roger Ebert gave it a 4-star review and Richard Roeper named it the 'best film of the year.' It was also Richard Schickel's top film of 2007, and he called it “a morally alert, persuasively realistic and increasingly suspenseful melodrama, impeccably acted and handsomely staged by Tony Gilroy". The reviews on Box Office Mojo give the movie a normal B. Time magazine said that "Michael Clayton is not an exercise in high-tension energy; you'll never confuse its eponymous protagonist with Jason Bourne. But it does have enough of a melodramatic pulse to keep you engaged in its story and, better than that, it is full of plausible characters who are capable of surprising—and surpassing—your expectations".

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.





Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Michael Clayton was released on September 25, 2007 on the Varèse Sarabande label.


Although the album was panned by some critics, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Track listing

All tracks composed by James Newton Howard.
  1. "Main Titles" – 2:12
  2. "Chinatown" – 2:27
  3. "Drive to the Field" – 1:35
  4. "Just Another Day" – 2:20
  5. "Meeting Karen" – 2:46
  6. "Looking for Arthur" – 1:41
  7. "U North" – 1:49
  8. "Arthur & Henry" – 2:11
  9. "Times Square" – 3:38
  10. "Mr. Verne" – 2:28
  11. "I'm Not the Guy You Kill" – 6:57
  12. "Horses" – 2:13
  13. "25 Dollars Worth" – 6:27


  1. Michael Clayton (2007)
  2. Schickel, Richard; “The 10 Best Movies”;
  3. Roeper's review on Youtube

External links

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