Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that
you may live and occupy the land that the Lord
your God is giving you.
…Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4
Although he is a lawyer, Michael Clayton (George Clooney) calls himself a janitor. That is because the law firm headed up by his friend Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack, taking a leave from his directing chores) sends him out to help their important clients get out of self-imposed jams. For example, we see a wealthy man hitting someone on the highway and then driving on. When he makes a panic call to Marty, the latter sends Michael to deal with give the man legal council and deal with the police. Michael tells Marty that he would much prefer to argue cases in a courtroom, but Marty tells him that although he has plenty of good trial lawyers, none possess the skills that he has for cleaning up the legal messes made by their clients.
However, there is one mess, a really, really big mess that his friend and colleague has gotten into that even Michael might not be able to fix. Veteran lawyer Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) seems to have gone crazy, taking off his clothes during a deposition with litigants pursuing a class action law suite against a big firm represented by his firm, one that could cost their client billions of dollars were a court to decide against the firm. Arthur is caught on a video security camera running naked through the snow. He then disappears. Michael, who has regarded Arthur as a mentor, is to find him.
Michael himself is in a hard to fix mess. He is divorced and sees his son only on Saturdays. His work in the shadows has about burnt him out, and he is losing the restaurant that he and his brother had opened. Indeed, he needs $75,000 to pay back the loan sharks the money that the alcoholic brother has squandered, or something bad will happen. Oh yes, Michael himself has lost lots of money in the past due to his addiction to high stakes poker.
There is one other major player in the high stakes legal game, Karen Crowder, played to icy perfection by the impeccably dressed and coiffed Tilda Swinton. She is the chief legal executive for the corporation being sued, and if ever she had a conscience, it must have been lost in kindergarten when she pushed a classmate down to get at her lollipop. Michael learns that Arthur knows that their corporate client is guilty of its alleged pollution. Karen, also well aware of the facts, will use any means—any means!—to stop Arthur from spilling the beans.
This is a corporate thriller on a par with a John Grisham thriller. First time director/writer Tony Gilroy has given us a spell binding film. (He wrote the scripts for the three Bourne films and Extreme Measures)
1) What price does the movie suggest that Michael, Karen, and colleagues have had to pay for their high style of living?
2) Were you a lawyer do you think you could defend clients that you knew were guilty? If so, are there cir