George Clooney won his Oscar from his first acting nomination for portraying Bob Barnes in Syriana.
Syriana details a group of intersecting stories involving the U.S.'s associations and complications with foreign oil.
George Clooney is an actor who is sometimes criticized for not really investing in his characters and sometimes very bluntly for playing himself. Well here is an attempt by Clooney to completely reject himself and attempt to portray Bob Barnes an over the hill worn out CIA operative. Well even though I will give credit to Clooney for trying I won't give him credit for succeeding. He never becomes believable as the CIA operative who has been working too many different sides for too long, he is no Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold for example.
Clooney doesn't ever really establish the history of his character, he never seems a like a man who has seen too much or been through too many things. He just never conveys the past of the character in his performance. Instead Clooney gives the same slightly frustrated slight sad face throughout the film to attempt to indicate the state of mine of Barnes. Unfortunately he never shows anything underneath the surface with his performance it is always just basically same expression for his entire performance which is very dull to watch, and does not make Bob Barnes into an interesting character.
The problem is Clooney really did not even need to make Barnes into the that much of an intriguing character, he really could have been just an anchor for the audience in the film. Unfortunately Clooney does not even act as a good anchor he never brings us into his world or into his character's troubles. He instead just makes that same old face again that really does not contribute to the effort of making us empathize with Barnes. Clooney never seems to realize that to underplay one must strive hard to find the complexities of their performances inside subtle reactions like say Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies or Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but Clooney simply is no Oldman or Duvall.
What amazes me is how Clooney stays in his depressed dull manner all the way throughout it does not matter what the context of the scene is whether it is talking with his son, or threatening an oil man he goes about in almost the exact same way. Clooney also shows no development as Barnes uncovers more and more of the film's plot instead he just makes that same old expression again as if he feels he must spends all his time trying to ensure the audience that he is not George Clooney but a downtrodden CIA agent. Clooney though doesn't do the downtrodden part right. There was not a moment in his performance that I cared about his character or his character's story which Clooney failed to ever bring me into it. There is a serious problem with a performance when the thing I remember most about is that his character has the same name as previous nominee Tom Berenger's Sergeant in Platoon.