Essay on Michael Clayton: Film Analysis

Tony Gilroy’s movie Michael Clayton appeared on the movie circuit in 2007, at a time when intellectual thrillers were at a highpoint and amoral lawyers acted as villains. I believe this movie contains messages surrounding the ideology of capitalism. It is best to understand, exactly what is meant by the term, ideology of capitalism. The following is a definition of capitalism.

Capitalism (n): An economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. Capitalism (n. d. ) in Dictionary. com. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from, http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/capitalism? srt People do not have to agree or disagree with the idea a motion picture is a mechanism for the writer to impose a certain political or nonpolitical message to its audience.

Whether we agree or disagree with the values expressed in a particular movie, the ideological critic maintains that these movies are never innocent visions of the world and that the social and personal values that seem so natural in them need to be analyzed. Corrigan, T. (2004). A Short Guide to Writing about Film. New York: Pearson, 89. For many people, movies are simply a form of pure entertainment and have been viewed that way for a number of decades. Earlier movies, those of westerns persuasion, portrayed villains and heroes, with its law and order.

Over time, and with substantial political events in history contributing to the changes of law and order, villains and heroes took on different characteristics. The aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, along with other cynical triggers portrayed lawyers in an altered light. George Clooney’s character Michael Clayton is shown as a hero-lawyer later on in the film, yet more of a villain-lawyer early in the film. U/North is the crooked and greedy corporation at the center of the corruption between a $3 billion class action law suit and the 450 individuals affected by the deadly chemicals it produces.

This powerful corporation employees over 70,000 employees in 62 countries around the world. Gilroy, T. (Writer/Director), & Pollack, S. (Producter). (2007). Michael Clayton [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Brothers Pictures. The film opens within the dark, empty hall ways of a law firm awakening to a new busy day, accompanied by a frantic, pleading, prophetic voiceover narrating a lawyer’s moment of enlightenment; the moment of realization that his professional life was poisoning not merely his own personal life, but also the miracle of humanity.

The moment in which he suddenly apprehended that he has sacrificed his life in the service of a monstrous organism – the law firm – whose sole purpose was to assist larger monstrous organisms in destroying innocent human lives. Kamir, O. (2009) Suffolk University Law Review. Michael Clayton, Hollywood’s Contemporary Hero-Lawyer. [Vo. XLH: 831]. In the film’s opening scenes, we are brazenly shown how one man’s legal ethics are broken and crumbled. Arthur’s actions are said to be by others, attributed to a chemical imbalance with a manic depressive state of mind.

Out of 600 lawyers in the firm, he is a successful senior litigating partner, dedicating six years of his life which consist of 400 depositions, 100 motions, and 5 changes of venue including 85,000 documents in discovery. (Warner Brothers Pictures 2007). This reputation is also recognized by the same person, Michael Clayton in another scene proclaiming Arthur Edsen as a brilliant executioner, a man who is dedicated enough to be committed to a case for six years without missing a beat. These are the people who make the firm as successful as it is, the back bone of America.

In order to maintain the firm’s focus, one of which is to increase billable hours and celebrate its riches, key people like Don Jefferies and Karen Crowder of U/North hold the winning cards. Karen Crowder holds a strong position as chief counsel with U/ North. Yet her sights are set higher, she wants to precede Don Jeffries as CEO. To prove she is capable of fulfilling all the responsibilities of the impending position, she takes it upon herself to follow in Don’s footsteps. Don’s character is the strong silent type.

He towers over most of the other characters in the film, portraying a giant authoritative leader. It is no surprise though when Karen finds out in the end that Don had prior knowledge of the deadly toxins U/North was trying to hide. In her attempt to prove her worth, Karen hires professional assassins to do whatever it takes to eliminate the threats, Arthur and Michael Clayton. She continues her immoral streak allowing phone taps and surveillance operations to gain the upper hand in silencing U/North’s accusers. There are many scenes in the film where Karen is preparing her presentation.

I get the feeling that she has to repeatedly practice her lines over and over, making constant changes to her word choices, because it may be that she is trying to also convince herself she is doing the right thing. Her point about achieving balance is typical of a person so dedicated to their position that they don’t hold anything else in high regard. There is only one quick shot of a family photograph, this I am guessing is intention by the writer so the audience continues to view Karen as a hard core corporate opponent.

This represents the true evil in our world which is upheld by our legal system. Michael Clayton’s storyline makes it an engrossing intellectual thriller that holds its audience’s attention and keep them guessing until the last moment. It asks its audience to consider some difficult moral problems, but it does so in an unassuming way that leave its audience satisfied in questioning the motivations and actions of these lawyers at the end. Foohey, P. (October 19, 2007).

The Harvard Law (Movie) Review: Michael Clayton. Retrieved November 9, 2015. http://hlrecord. org/2007/10/the-harvard-lawmovie-review-michael-clayton/ The life styles a firm like Kenner, Back and Ledeen has to offer, tempts those ideologically uncommitted individuals looking specifically for the highest salaries and the most advantages the firm can offer. Once the line is crossed, criminal activities and immoral actions become synonymous with being firm partner, part of their family and integrity is only a notion.

A person living this lifestyle, in which legal business matters undermine other considerations, including friendship or respect for human life lose their righteous way. After Arthur’s tragic death, Marty continues to take steps to save the firm from failure, at all costs. He admits to Michael that two other firm employees will be handling the memorial service for Arthur, even mentioning that he may have made a wrong choice in his people selection. It is obvious Marty may not know his colleagues well enough to know what they are like, as individuals.

In fact, Marty does not demonstrate much trust in most of his colleagues, naming Barry as an asshole and he definitely sees Michael as a disappointment due to his addiction problems. Ultimately he believes a merger is the best thing that could happen to him, personally. Kenner, Back and Ledeen law firm where investments and ownership is privately owned. This law firm is not overseen by any form of government regulations, no cooperatively group of public proprietorship.

There are an abundant examples of greed and improprieties in this motion picture Michael Clayton. The messages are clear and the motivations are ruthless. I was impressed that the writer had included in the last scene, Karen falling to her knees after realizing she has been shot down by the very person she tried to have killed. Somehow, it would seem to me and possibly other viewers, the firm would rise from the ashes or would truth prevail. Nevertheless, there is economic wealth in these investment systems, so the rich continue to get richer.