Michael Clayton: A suspense that opens with a crazed epiphanic monologue

The movie Michael Clayton doesn’t waste time building suspense. It puts you right at the edge of the cliff, at the plea of a frantic man desperately trying  to convince you of the reality of his dark epiphany.

Arthur’s monologue

Michael. Dear Michael. Of course it’s you. Who else could they send? Who else could be trusted? And I know it’s a long way and you’re ready to go to work. All I’m saying is wait. Just wait. Jus-jus-jus-just please, hear me out because this is not an episode. Relapse. Fuck up. I’m begging you, Michael. I’m begging you. Try and make believe this is not just madness because this is not just madness.

Two weeks ago, I came out of the building, okay. I’m running across Sixth Avenue, there’s a car waiting. I got exactly thirty-eight minutes to get to the airport and I’m dictating. There’s this-this panicked associate sprinting along beside me, scribbling in a notepad, and suddenly she starts screaming. And I realize, we’re standing in the middle of the street, the lights change. There’s this wall of traffic, serious traffic speeding towards us and I-I-I freeze. I can’t move. And I’m suddenly consumed with the overwhelming sensation that I’m covered with some sort of film. It’s-ts-ts in my hair, my face, it’s-ts-ts like a glaze, like a coating and-and I — at first I thought, oh god, I know what this is. This is some sort of ambryonic, embryonic fluid. I’m-I’m drenched in afterbirth, I’ve breached the chrysalis, I’ve been reborn.

But then, the traffic — the stampede — the cars, the trucks, the horns, beww-hoo-hoo, the screaming. And I’m thinking no, no, no, no reset. This is not rebirth. This is some kind of giddy illusion of renewal that happens in the final moments before death. And then, I realize no no no, this is completely wrong because I look back at the buildingand I had the most stunning moment of clarity. I-I-I-I realized Michael that I had emerged — not through the doors of Kennyl baucher and dean, not through the portals of our vast and powerful law firm but from the asshole of an organism whose sole function is to excrete the-the, the, the-the-the the poison, the ammo, the defoamant necessary for other, larger, more powerful organisms to destroy the miracle of humanity, and that I had been coated in this patina of shit for the best part of my life. The stench of it and the stain of it would in all likelihood take the rest of my life to undo.

And you know what I did? I took a deep cleansing breath and I set that notion aside. I tabled it. I said to myself: As clear as this may be, as potent a feeling as this is, as true a thing as I believe that I have witnessed today, it must wait. It must stand the test of time. And Michael, the time is now.

Arthur’s monologue w/ scene description

The screen is black. We hear keys jangle, a heavy lock turn, the mechanics of a metal door. The door opens. And then footsteps. Dress shoes tapping a linoleum floor.

ARTHUR (frantic)

Michael. Dear Michael. Of course it’s you. Who else could they send? Who else could be trusted? And I know it’s a long way and you’re ready to go to work. All I’m saying is wait. Just wait. Jus-jus-jus-just please, hear me out because this is not an episode. Relapse. Fuck up. I’m begging you, Michael. I’m begging you. Try and make believe this is not just madness because this is not just madness.

EXT. CITY SKYSCRAPER – NIGHT

ARTHUR (CONT’D)

Two weeks ago, I came out of the building, okay. I’m running across Sixth Avenue, there’s a car waiting. I got exactly thirty-eight minutes to get to the airport and I’m dictating.

INT. SKYSCRAPER – NIGHT

As Arthur continues, we see a long, corporate reception desk in an empty office floor. Behind the desk, the name KENNER, BACH & LEDEEN in gold letters, lit in regal lighting. The rest of the office is dim and deserted.

Following this: shots of cleaning crew people working in solitude, dark conference rooms and offices, abandoned hallways lit with fluorescent light.

ARTHUR (CONT’D)

There’s this-this panicked associate sprinting along beside me, scribbling in a notepad, and suddenly she starts screaming. And I realize, we’re standing in the middle of the street, the lights change. There’s this wall of traffic, serious traffic speeding towards us and I-I-I freeze. I can’t move. And I’m suddenly consumed with the overwhelming sensation that I’m covered with some sort of film. It’s-ts-ts in my hair, my face, it’s-ts-ts like a glaze, like a coating and-and I — at first I thought, oh god, I know what this is. This is some sort of ambryonic, embryonic fluid. I’m-I’m drenched in afterbirth, I’ve breached the chrysalis, I’ve been reborn.

But then, the traffic — the stampede — the cars, the trucks, the horns, beww-hoo-hoo, the screaming. And I’m thinking no, no, no, no reset. This is not rebirth. This is some kind of giddy illusion of renewal that happens in the final moments before death. And then, I realize no no no, this is completely wrong because I look back at the building and I had the most stunning moment of clarity.

A blurred man pushing a cart past a conference room enclosed in frosted glass.

ARTHUR (CONT’D)

I-I-I-I realized Michael that I had emerged — not through the doors of Kenner, Bach, and Ledeen, not through the portals of our vast and powerful law firm…

The wheels of the cart rolling fast on a thin-carpet floor.

ARTHUR (CONT’D)

…but from the asshole of an organism whose sole function is to excrete the-the, the, the-the-the the poison, the ammo, the defoamant necessary for other, larger, more powerful organisms to destroy the miracle of humanity, and that I had been coated in this patina of shit for the best part of my life. The stench of it and the stain of it would in all likelihood take the rest of my life to undo.

The cart pusher’s hands on the cart’s handlebar.

ARTHUR (CONT’D)

And you know what I did? I took a deep cleansing breath and I set that notion aside. I tabled it. I said to myself: As clear as this may be, as potent a feeling as this is, as true a thing as I believe that I have witnessed today, it must wait. It must stand the test of time.

The pusher walking into a room full of suits and chatter.

ARTHUR (CONT’D)

And Michael, the time is now.

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