From my American Conservative review of the legal thriller starring George Clooney:
"Michael Clayton" churns out the same old plot about a murderous multinational rubbing out whoever gets in its carcinogenic way.
Tilda Swinton, so aristocratic and androgynous that she makes Cate Blanchett look like Angelina Jolie, plays the corporate counsel for UNorth, which peddles its cancer-causing herbicide in 62 countries. She pays Clooney's law firm tens of millions to fight weed-killer lawsuits, but then their lead defense attorney (Tom Wilkinson of "In the Bedroom") goes all Howard Beale of "Network," ranting about how working for UNorth has put blood on his hands while stripping naked during a deposition.
This sounds entertaining, but isn't, because auteur
ignores even the ripest targets for satire, such as the plaintiffs' contingency fee attorneys, always a colorful subspecies (Homo avaricious vulgaris). Instead, he maintains a steady tone of doleful indignation. Tony Gilroy
Our common law doesn't work well with cases in which blame can only be assigned statistically. Say the defendant's herbicide raises the chance of cancer by 50 percent. So, one out of three customers who get cancer are victims of the company, while two out of three aren't; but science can't tell which is which. The contingency fee attorneys bring suits from everybody who might have been harmed, while the defense tries to insinuate to the jury that the plaintiff deserved to get cancer. It's an ugly but fascinating slice of modern
, but not one you'll hear anything about from the one-sided "Michael Clayton." Americana