Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

3. George Clooney as Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air

Any film fan of the last 80 years would look at George Clooney and say, "Now that's a movie star!" Gene-splicing scientists couldn't have created a more perfect American hunk: handsome, witty, suave and enjoying the hell out of his celebrity. He's also an actor with a capacious range. He can do goofy, or gruff, or sensitive, and in dramas like Syriana and Michael Clayton he can seem near emotional exhaustion. As Up in the Air's management consultant, Clooney gets inside his character because, in a way, he already lives there; the star, like Ryan, is a traveling man with scores of women in his past. But for all his good graces, Ryan has an insight deficiency; by the end of the film, he knows less about himself than we do. It's a mark of Clooney's intelligence that, in this career-defining performance, he trusts us enough to see the flawed human being behind Ryan's movie-star smile.