DRAMA; 2hr 4min
STARRING: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton
Head to head: from left, Wilkinson and Clooney
Who would be a top-flight attorney in a dog-eat-every-other-dog culture? Not Arthur Edens (Wilkinson), a brilliant, manic-depressive litigator for New York law firm Kenner, Bach & Leedon who flips his lid and finds his conscience on the cusp of the successful resolution of a $3 billion class-action suit. And certainly not KB&E fixer Michael Clayton (Clooney), co-opted to clean up the mess Edens is making.
Clayton is debt-riddled and trapped, and the way Clooney plays him (blunt, burdened and disgusted), close to the end of his rope. Edens has already knotted a noose with his, by turning on the agrochemical giant he is supposed to represent. As this grim exposé from writer-director Tony Gilroy (the Bourne trilogy) plays out on a grid of corroded ideals, both men face themselves head-on.
Ethical and spiritual bankruptcy make strong thematic medicine, but as in his Bourne screenplays, Gilroy has a higher moral ground in mind. For Clayton and Edens, as for Jason Bourne, reaching it is a bitter life-and-death gamble.