3 September 2017 | Raven-1969
Coolness under Pressure
Law and justice are common misconceptions. For truth is adjustable. It depends on money and influence. Michael Clayton is short on both. Deep in debt, isolated and with his authority as special counsel at a massive law firm becoming increasingly tenuous, Michael has no room error. Then the trouble really begins. Arthur, a leading attorney for the firm, suffers a breakdown. Michael is marked for execution. With billions of dollars and lives hanging in the balance, Michael realizes he must channel the skills he learned as a powerful trial attorney; coolness under pressure, finding and exploiting thresholds for pain, and adjusting the truth.
Attorneys, especially those at gigantic firms like Michael's, must jettison or channel their emotions to win. Even then, winning often does not mean success. Arthur is broken down from years of screaming, stalling, scheming and sacrificing his well-being – and that of those he loves - in exchange for billable hours. Eyes opening to the beauty of life and love, Arthur resists Michael's efforts to bring him back to the tasks of the firm. To help Arthur, the firm and all those who depend upon them, Michael first must help himself. The film reveals why, as a law school graduate, I am not practicing law.
As a thriller, Michael Clayton is first rate. Tensions are heightened as puzzle pieces of the story and the motivations of the fascinating characters are gradually revealed and the film jumps back in time. Those in the audience who pay attention to little details are rewarded. The reason for a malfunctioning vehicle GPS unit, for instance, is revealed near the end of the film and with much impact. George Clooney (Michael), Tom Wilkinson (Arthur) and Tilda Swinton are amazing. With added depth to the dialogue, soundtrack and cinematography, the film could be more compelling, yet viewers will delight, as I did, in the charms of this pulse quickening film. Ten years since the release of the film and the nation receives a daily schooling, from the highest levels of government, in the relevance of its theme of adjustable truth.