Reasons for making “Michael Clayton” the next film you watch:
– It couldn’t be more topical. In a world where money counts and white men in suits have trouble remembering how to spell ethics, it’s about money and ethics.
– The writer-director is Tony Gilroy, who wrote all three “Bourne” movies.
– It stars George Clooney.
– It co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack.
– It was the only movie at the 2008 Oscars to receive more than one acting nomination; it received three. In all, it was nominated for 7 Academy Awards. Swinton won Best Supporting Actress.
– It’s really smart: strong action sequences, great dialogue, and a plot with no holes. [For the Amazon Prime stream of “Michael Clayton,” click here.]

Watch the trailer.

What’s the story? Michael Clayton works for a major New York law firm that’s been handling a class action lawsuit for U-North, which knowingly manufactured a dangerous weed killer that led to 468 deaths. U-North is on the verge of settling the suit when the law firm’s lead lawyer discovers a damaging confidential memo, signed by the former CEO. He flips out at a deposition, rips off his clothes and runs, naked, to the parking lot. The law firm sends Michael Clayton to repair the damage.

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Karen Crowder [the recently appointed U-North CEO]: Who’s this guy they’re sending here? Clayton? I never heard of him.
Maude: Michael Raymond Clayton. Born September 9, 1959 St. Joseph’s Hospital, Bronx, New York. Father is NYPD patrolman Raymond Xavier Clayton. Mother, Alice Mary Clayton. Graduates Washingtonville Central High School, Orange County, New York in 1977. Graduates St. John’s University 1980. Fordham Law, ’82. Eighty-two through Eighty-six he’s ADA with the Queens District Attorney’s office. And 1986 he’s with the Joint Manhattan Queens Organized Crime Task Force. And then in 1990 he starts with Kenner Boch and Ledeen.
Karen Crowder: So he’s a partner?
Maude: No. He’s listed as “special counsel.” Says he specializes in wills and trusts.
Karen Crowder: He goes from criminal prosecution to wills and trusts? He’s been there seventeen years and he’s not a partner? This is the guy they send? Who is this guy?

Who, indeed? “I’m not a miracle worker,” Clayton says. “I’m a janitor.” His self-assessment is harsh: “I’m not the guy you kill. I’m the guy you buy! “ Believe that at your peril. When he’s pushed to the brink, he has a spine.

We are, as I say, living in a time when sanity is under attack. It’s healing and inspiring to watch a film about a man who, at considerable risk and the certain knowledge he won’t be thanked for doing the right thing, does the right thing. And just not because he’s George Clooney.