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Michael Clayton Review Critics


Dave White Profile

… appropriately dour and unhappy. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    It's a rare film that can challenge our minds and rattle our nerves so profoundly. This is unequivocally a thriller for adults. A deftly written, tautly suspenseful and intellectually demanding morality tale.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    It's better than good; it's such a crackling and mature and accomplished movie that it just about restores your faith.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    I don't know what vast significance Michael Clayton has (it involves deadly pollution but isn't a message movie). But I know it is just about perfect as an exercise in the genre.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    George Clooney's film noir sensibility in the title role feels authentic, and admirably solid.

    Read Full Review

  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt

    As with the Bourne films, Gilroy has a knack for creating strong characters and situations that resonate with tension. It may be formula, but the guy is a solid chemist as he crafts excellent set-ups and payoffs.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Smart, mature legal thriller isn't meant for kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that that although teens might be interested in this mature thriller thanks to star George Clooney, it's definitely aimed at adults. Fast-talking and complicated, it deals with complex issues like corporate corruption, toxic consumer products, and legal manipulation. An empty car explodes twice (the first time is a flashforward), and a murder is committed very coldly (by needle, with the killers attacking the victim in his apartment). A woman appears in her bra and slip, with visible cleavage, and a male lawyer undressing (down to his underwear) during a deposition is a significant plot point. Language includes many uses of "f--k," plus other profanity.

  • Families can talk about what makes this movie for adults, as opposed to kids or even teens. Is it the subject matter? The dialogue? What do you need to know or understand in order to be able to "get" a movie like this? Families can also discuss the idea of right vs. wrong. Is it always easy to tell which is which? What does Michael do that's "right" in this movie? What does he do that's "wrong"?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Lawyers and corporate executives use increasingly devious and illegal methods to cover up previous wrongdoing. Michael Clayton tries to do the right thing.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Michael's car explodes when he's at a distance; he turns to see it (this is a flashforward the first time it occurs, then appears again later). A man is attacked by two others, who drug and kill him, methodically and disturbingly (they inject his foot with poison, wait for him to die, check his pulse, then put his sock and shoe back on).

  • sex false3

    Sex: Michael says his brother "knocked up" a waitress. Karen appears in her bra, showing cleavage. Several references to Arthur stripping during a deposition (a sign of his insanity); a grainy video of the event shows him upset and removing his clothes down to his boxers as he declares his love for the deposition witness. Slangy description of Arthur "with [his] d--k hanging out." Arthur describes being in a whorehouse with two prostitutes (he says they were "sucking my d--k," and reports "two Lithuanian mouths on my c--k").

  • language false5

    Language: Lots of angry language, including more than 20 uses of "f--k," plus several uses of "s--t," "hell," and "damn," and fewer of "son of a bitch" and "ass." Occasional slang for genitals ("c--k," "d--k," and "c--t").

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Repeated clips from a promotional film for the film's central fictional company, U/North; fancy cars (Jaguar, BMW).

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Several characters smoke cigarettes. Several references to Michael's brother's alcoholism (which adversely affected the restaurant they tried to start); characters drink in bars; Michael drinks several times. Brief glimpse of prescription pills in a medicine cabinet.