Coulisse of law corporations, the fight between the will to suceed and the drive towards justice... Michael Clayton is the lawer who does the donkey work - he solves the unsolvable: he settles the extincition of investigation in the case of road accident made by some 'big fish', rescues the reputation of a politician who was caught to behave carelessly. By the time. Doubts come when his friend, Arthur, one of the most cunning lawers 'freeks out' and sabotages the work of his employer: UNorth. It turns out that UNorth is polluting the environment and effictively killing people, which Arthur discovers and choses not to defend the company from the plaintiffs whose families has been suffering because of the pollutant. Arthur starts his own crusaide to punish his wrongdoers by misrepresenting them and gathering documents for the claimants; Michael is to shut him down, so that UNorth can win the case worth several millions of dollars. Clayton finds himself in a trap - either will be betray a friend and his conscience and stand for the bad to pay his debts, or he will favor his internal justice and lose a job.
Cases do not dealt with just in the court. Lots of details like evidence, testimony are settled before they find the daylight. Michael Clayton shows how lawers, knowing the law (and how to avoid it), manipulate the justice by playing with witnesses,eliminating the evidence. Everything is just the case of money. It seems that a lawer does not only represent his client in the court, he also 'cleans up' and often gives the sentences himself by not allowing the case to be heard by the judge. The film shows that lawers not only balance on the boundary of law but that the cross it for money. Clayton uses his skill to avoid the justice because this is what his company and clients want. Law chamber ceases to be a bastion of help for wrongdoers - this is now the enterprice which wipes out the sins.
Very important motif in this film is the one with Arthur. After 6 years of negotiation for UNorth he discovers the toxicity of their product and reminds himself that he should be pursuing the truth and so... help the plaintiff. However, this cannot be approved by his superiors, who after being lawers for so many years ceased to see the truth, don't speak with and don't care about the victims to avoid remorse... He decides to fight anyway. This is taken by his collegues as a sign of insanity, the try to stiffle him just to get the money. Defalcation to the chamber is taken as a bigger sin than the defalcation to the justice. Furthermore, Arthur is the embodiment of humans' nature: how long can we live in a lie? Is the lawer different than other human in that he can lie longer without getting crazy? This film shows that lawers feel responsible for the actions for their client because if they win the case for them they will share the responsibility for the suffering of the claimants... however, not all the lawer let this feeling of guilt speak: here we have Karen, who smothers the guilt. Why does she do it? She sacrificed her entire life to be a lawer, she doesn't have a family and friends and so she defends the bad - because this bad is all she has.
A swindler is a higher form of a lawer. Law corporation are weak - they need to hire people who help them avoid the truth because if the case would go to the court without any previous intervention the truth would prevail. This tell us something sad about law chambers: they are incapable of defending their client without some tricks, e.g. wire-tapping or bulglary, but also something glorifying about the law administration: even the best commercial lawers would not defend and win every case if not the unlawful freaks.
This is a good film for future commertial lawers. Do You really want to replace the happiness of watching your kinds grow with money and guilt? Do You want to discover that the only thing that can stimulate you to feel is gambling after hours of work? Do you want to find out one day that no-one is really around you because you despise your assistants, journalists and see your dad once a year?