Presidential wannabe Mike Morris (George Clooney) runs a slick campaign – but it’s not as well-oiled as the one Clooney’s driving behind the camera. After the trifling Leatherheads, gorgeous George’s directorial career swings back into contention with an unwavering belief in smart, grown-up cinema.
Clooney takes Good Night, And Good Luck’s delight in intellectual debate and adds a sober reality check, as game-changing revelations force Morris’ idealistic campaign manager Stephen (Ryan Gosling) to question the luxury of ethics in his job.
His arc will surprise nobody who’s seen Clooney touchstones like Redford’s The Candidate – or who reads headlines during this US election year. But Hollywood’s liberal poster boy admitting that back-stabbing and backroom deals are endemic is a cogent reminder of democracy’s imperfections.
Clooney doesn’t take the rat-a-tat, Aaron Sorkin approach, keeping the pace as unruffled as its silver-haired star, a series of verbal chess games between acting masters.
Clooney’s seasoned charmer is no stretch, but he’s background; aptly, as Morris never appears in original play Farragut North.That puts the spotlight onto the exceptional ensemble: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood.
As for Gosling, the subtlety of his transition from bright young thing to jaded manipulator underlines that his flair for flawed heroes isn’t confined to Drive’s headstomping cult appeal.