A 2007 legal thriller starring Creator/GeorgeClooney. It is the directorial debut of screenwriter Tony Gilroy, best known for the Film/TheBourneSeries.
It centers on [[ProtagonistTitle Michael Clayton]]. Michael Clayton is a "fixer" -- a person who solves difficult situations by tampering with the legal system -- at the New York City law firm Kenner, Bach, & Ledeen. Clayton finds himself embroiled in a case involving his mentally-unstable colleague, Arthur Edens, and the agricultural conglomerate his firm is representing in a class-action lawsuit.
!!This Film Provides Examples Of:
* AmoralAttorney: Deconstructed and subverted throughout.
** Karen fits this to a tee in what she does [[PunchClockVillain on the job]], but that job leaves her highly [[ThisIsYourBrainOnEvil neurotic and edgy]].
** Marty (the managing partner of the firm) has a line that sums this trope up perfectly: [[spoiler: "This case reeked from day one. Fifteen years in and I got to tell you how we pay the rent?"]]
** Arthur is an example of this who starts off the movie with a HeelFaceTurn.
** And the main arc of the movie [[spoiler: is Michael doing the same turn]].
-->'''Michael Clayton:''' I'm not the enemy.
-->'''Arthur Edens:''' Then who are you?
* TheAtoner: Arthur.
* CaliforniaDoubling: In a minor way within the New York metropolitan area. The film suggests that all the action outside the city takes place in Westchester County. However, the railroad bridge where he stops and admires the horses is the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moodna_Viaduct Moodna Viaduct]] in ''Orange'' County, twice as far away from the city and on the other side of the Hudson River. Some other scenes were also filmed nearby.
* CallBack: Arthur uses an UnusualEuphemism- "You think you got the horses for that?" to stand in for guts or something of the like. [[spoiler:Later when Michael is driving on a deserted stretch of road, he notices a small herd grazing on a hill and is reminded of Arthur. Arthur's comment inadvertently saves Michael's life. Ditto for the "blink and you'll miss it" horse grazing on a hill in the book ''Realm and Conquest''.]]
* CastTheExpert: The auctioneer
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: U-North.
* DefaultToGood: Several examples.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: Michael essentially has to cash in his career, and quite possibly the firm he works for, to do the right thing.
* ExternalCombustion: [[spoiler:DoubleSubversion: We see all the usual car-focus foreshadowing, then nothing happens. Later on, the car suddenly explodes while Michael happens to not be in it, and we don't find out until the end of the film that he was being tailed by hitmen with a remote detonator.]]
* FictionalCounterpart: U-North might as well have been called Please-Don't-Sue-Us-Monsanto.
* HowWeGotHere and InMediasRes: The opening sequence is followed by going back four days earlier.
* IronicEcho: "I am Shiva, the god of death!"
* IvyLeagueForEveryone: Averted, since the main character is a graduate of St. John's University and Fordham Law School.
* LeaveTheCameraRunning: The end credits scene of Michael in the back of a cab.
* LoveMakesYouCrazy: Arthur Edens apparently had a crush on one of the plaintiffs in the class-action suit. This convinces him to stop his meds.
* LoveRedeems: Arthur's love for one of the plaintiffs caused him to change [[spoiler:and later supply evidence that could bring the company down.]]
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: [[spoiler:Well, like a suicide.]]
* MagicRealism: The scene with the horses: it comes [[spoiler:directly from an illustration from Michael's son's fantasy book and it saves Michael from the car bomb.]] [[MaybeMagicMaybeMundane Divine intervention?]]
* MurderIsTheBestSolution: [[spoiler:Crazy lawyer? Sleuthing friend? Best call in a hitman!]]
* NeverMyFault: The man Michael is called to assist at the beginning of the film is this. Also a JerkAss. He ran down a jogger and left the scene of the accident, and when Michael arrives he starts blaming the street lights, the dark, the rain, the jogger, etc. Anyone but himself. Even his wife is clearly fed up with his bullshit and Michael is obviously struggling to keep from rolling his eyes while listening to the asshole talk. Michael cuts through his bullshit and starts making plans to call a criminal lawyer because he ''knows'' the guy is fucked. The police work closely with body shops and car repair places, and due to how exclusive the neighborhood is, they aren't going to have any trouble running the guy down. The guy finally realizes this and suggests that he just report the car as stolen, but Michael doesn't even acknowledge this suggestion because he knows it won't work. The idiot's phone records will be used as evidence in court, and all the calls he made to multiple lawyers instead of the police will torpedo any such stolen car story.
* ObfuscatingInsanity: Arthur.
* OmnidisciplinaryLawyer: Averted. Michael's specialty at the firm is using his contacts and experience from his past as a prosecutor to mitigate occasional problems with the criminal-justice system the firm's corporate clients that the other lawyers would be incapable of handling.
* PunchClockVillain: Basically the point of the film. Kenner, Bach, & Ledeen profits off of protecting Punch Clock Villains like the insidious U-North corporation, to the point that Arthur's guilt finally gets the better of him. [[spoiler:Karen Crowder is put in the position of protecting U-North and resorts to assassination. The assassins themselves are respectable business-types who take jobs while teeing off at the country club.]] Everyone is simply doing their job. In case we miss it, the opening scenes have Michael clocking in with his ID badge on the way to work.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: [[spoiler: Arthur to the fullest.]]
* ShoutOut: I ''hope'' Clayton's kid's parents didn't actually let him watch ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' before getting him an Eva...
* TheSpock: Michael Clayton.
* StepfordSmiler: Karen must arduously construct her aura of confidence. Scenes cut back and forth between the poised professional she seems to be on the job and the nervous wreck she is behind the scenes.
* ToBeLawfulOrGood: Arthur, then Michael.
* TroubleEntendre: In a very vague discussion between Karen and one of her spies, it gets so confusing for the spy that he outright asks if she wants him to [[spoiler:kill Arthur Edens]] or not; the whole scene is incredibly chilling.
* VillainousBreakdown: [[spoiler:Literally, as Karen begins to fall apart while Clayton berates her, then starts shaking like a leaf and outright collapses to the floor as her crimes are revealed and the police move in to arrest her, to the point where they actually hold off on cuffing her because they fear she might need medical attention.]]