“Michael Clayton,” review by Susan Granger

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Faced with moral corruption within the corporate culture, a lawyer gets sucked into a dangerous cover-up when a colleague threatens to expose the conspiracy behind the settlement of multimillion-dollar class-action suit against one of his firm’s major clients.

While Michael Clayton (George Clooney) has always yearned to be made partner, he’s spent 17 years as a “fixer” for New York’s prestigious Kenner, Bach & Ledeen. When there’s a sticky or embarrassing situation, Clayton has the contacts to minimize the mess or make it disappear. But, at 45, and a divorced father with a young son, he’s broke and in debt – the result of gambling and a failed family business venture. So when the lead litigator (Tom Wilkinson), previously diagnosed as a manic-depressive, has a crisis of conscience while defending U-North, a multinational agrichemical conglomerate, the senior exec (Sydney Pollack), who is negotiating a crucial merger, puts Clayton in charge of the case. But U-North’s ambitious, duplicitous chief counsel (Tilda Swinton) knows there’s been corporate malfeasance and her job rests on protecting their interests – at any cost.

Most of the plot is revealed in flashback, after Clayton’s car explodes in flames on a deserted country road. Despite its scrambled structure and trenchant dialogue, long-time screenwriter (“The Bourne Identity” and its sequels) and first-time director Tony Gilroy makes this character-driven, multi-layered legal thriller compelling. Also credit Robert Elswit’s (“Syriana,” “Good Night and Good Luck”) cinematography and James Newton Howard’s subtle musical score.

Along with power-player George Clooney – terrific in challenging confrontational scenes – it’s packed with top-notch supporting performances from Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and actor/director Sydney Pollack. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Michael Clayton” is an arresting, engrossing 8. It would be a crime not to see it.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.