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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Review Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 12:03 AM EST on 1/28/2003
File Under: Movies -> Cinema -> Review

As a fan of off-center films, I have to say that I'm thoroughly impressed with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. This is especially encouraging, considering not only the fact that it is Sam Rockwell's first time in a lead role, but also George Clooney's directorial debut. You would think it would be tough to make a semi-ficticious story about a gameshow producer who moonlights as a CIA assassin come across as intelligent, but somehow, they've managed - much thanks to yet another great screenplay by Charlie Kauffman, who also wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.

Wait, what? A game show producer who moonlights as a CIA assassin? SEMI-ficticious? Yes, you read correctly. The movie is actually based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris, creator of such "quality" television programming as The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and The Gong Show. In an effort to apparently spice up his life story, he included details in his book about being recruited by the CIA to carry out covert assassinations - often while on vacation, chaperoning the winners of The Dating Game. The strangest part? Nobody has ever been able to debunk his claims, outrageous as they are.

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with the usual movie review spiel of summarizing the plot, spoiling the best parts, and discussing how emotionally involved you become with the characters. What you want to know is if you should go see this movie, and I'm just going to respond with a resounding YES! Here's why:

First, despite being his first time directing, George Clooney does a pretty damn good job, as he manages to fill the movie with some well-crafted sequences. For example, one scene shows Chuck as he walks into the NBC lobby, sees a pretty girl giving a tour, and promptly asks how to apply for a Page position. Seconds later, he reenters the frame while leading a tour in full uniform. The shot lasts a little bit longer as it pans over to show Chuck overhearing the same cute girl describing what she really wants in a man. The best part? All this is shown seamlessly, never cutting away. While slightly disorenting at first, I found this shot to be an extremely unique and effective way of showing the passage of time. The only thing I didn't really like about Clooney's directing is when it cut away to interviews with people Chuck knew, especially since these scenes had such a horribly overexposed look. But whatever... They weren't a big deal, and included a few interesting tidbits.

Second, the acting is all up to snuff. Sam Rockwell is completely convincing as Chuck, Drew Barrymore is perfectly cute and bubbly as Penny, and George Clooney and Julia Roberts are certainly adequate in their smaller supporting roles. (Oh, and look out for cameos by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Fred Savage as well.)

Finally, the script is incredibly intelligent and downright hilarious at many points. It's especially commendable that the movie takes Chuck Barris for his word, and though the question of whether or not he really did work for the CIA is raised, it's not directly given much attention. Instead, it's left to the audience to decide what they want to believe. This gives the whole movie a very surreal feel. Like a dream, everything that goes on makes sense as it's happening, but once you "wake up" and think about what you just saw, the whole thing just seems preposterous. I like that feeling.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended. With the unique premise of a game show producer leading a double life as a CIA assassin, the mystery of whether or not it's a true story, a smart and funny script, solid directing, and good acting all around, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind provides a hugely entertaining, albeit surreal, ride. If you enjoy films with unusual plots and aren't afraid to think a little, you'd do well to check this one out.
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