A successful television producer is recruited as overseas assassin by the CIA, an assignment which requires he conceal his activities from his long-term girlfriend.
We're seeing a lot of big stars taking on the role of director. George Clooney's first foray is a twisted tale of paranoia, hubris, reality and fantasy, it's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
The film is an adaptation of an unauthorised autobiography by Chuck Barris, a man who rose to fame in the late 1970's as originator of the television series The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game and host of The Gong Show. His fame was short-lived but Barris, according to his memoirs had another life as a contract killer for the CIA during this time, recruited by the mysterious Jim Byrd played by Clooney himself. So in the midst of wallowing in the shallow world of tacky television he darts off to various lethal international assignments where he becomes involved with fellow agent Patricia Watson (Julia Roberts), despite being involved with Penny (Drew Barrymore) in America.
Clooney's association with Steven Soderbergh has been significant in his career. Soderbergh was one of the Executive Producers on this project, but you can detect his presence at a much closer level than that. This is so unlike Denzel Washington's decent but rather safe debut, Antwone Fisher.
Clooney has been very inventive in bringing this strange tale to the screen. There's a sense of excitement watching his work. He gives credibility to both lives, the key being the performance of Sam Rockwell who's terrific as the manic protagonist. Clooney has gathered talent around him for this effort, Charlie Kaufman as screenwriter – you can just imagine this is exactly his sort of film – and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel whom Clooney had worked with on Three Kings. This is a daring, exhilarating debut for Clooney.
Comments By David Stratton:
George Clooney's directorial debut compares interestingly with last week's Auto Focus; both films are biographies of showbiz personalities. Was Chuck Barris, inventor of those terrible quiz shows, also a CIA spy? Centering on a great performance by Sam Rockwell as Barris, Clooney fills this intelligent film with humour, suspense and invention.