Michael Clayton (15)

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Michael Clayton is the film George Clooney, inset right, has been waiting for all his life. Not only does he get to play the sharp-suited slickster of his mainstream movies, but he gets to hammer home a liberal political message too. His character, Clayton, is a fixer for a megabucks Manhattan law firm. He's the "janitor" who cleans up all of its clients' most incriminating messes, so that when the firm's top litigator, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), strips off his clothes in a deposition room and announces that he's the god of death, it's up to Clayton to reel him in before he compromises the shady class-action suit he's been working on. But Clayton suspects that Edens might be the one who's sane, while his mercenary colleagues are the real gods of death.

Sydney Pollack, as Clayton's boss, symbolises the film's affinity with the paranoid thrillers of the 1970s. It sags under the weight of too many plot strands, but it's an engrossing, intelligent drama, with a particularly superb opening sequence. But couldn't they have come up with a better title?