I can’t think of another George Clooney movie I like all that much but I do like this one. Despite its incessant moralizing and hyper-romanticization of ‘resistance’ to modern life, I could watch it again and again. We are in the ‘dark woods’ of conspiracy theory, but this is nonetheless an entertaining piece of folklore. I suppose conspiracy theory is ok to George Clooney so long as it is a left-wing folk tale about the big bad corporations. Don’t get me wrong, corporations are as capable as anyone of acting badly. Perhaps from the perspective of organizational or systems theory, corporations are even more capable of such bad acts, as the institutional culture may serve to incubate corruption. Here we have a ‘bad apple’ (played with real heart by Tilda Swinton) in the form of a corporate attorney who conceals material evidence and then takes matters into her own hands to keep the cover-up going. The real problem here though according to the filmmakers (and many social theorists too it would seem) is not the ‘bad apple’ but the ubiquitous ‘system’ - as the quintessential agent of the system having a nervous breakdown (played with superb intensity by Tom Wilkinson) makes clear in this movie’s opening monologue that smacks to me of that famous movie Network, if we can only “make believe this is not just madness because this is not just madness.” Here we see not only ‘the violence inherent in the system’ but the central tautology inherent in every cinematic rebel! I confess despite my cynicism, the inner teenager in me loves this opening monologue, the description and accusation against ‘the system’ which is embodied in first “this wall of traffic” reminiscent of Fellini’s opening traffic jam nightmare from 8 and 1/2, and then the system as a biological organism or entity, the ultimate pet of corporate fascists and ‘company men’ across the land, “the overwhelming sensation [of being] covered with some sort of film . . . a glaze . . . a coating . . . some sort of amniotic, embryonic fluid . . . [from] an organism whose sole function is to excrete the poison, the amyl, the defoliant necessary for other larger more powerful organisms to destroy the miracle of humanity . . .” Despite my own personal cynicism about such high-minded social analysis I will admit that it strikes a chord undeniable to any thinking creature caught up in the web of society. We all intimately understand that it is our own ‘miracle’ that is choked by the corporate (modern, differentiated) system. The idea that we can express our ‘authentic’ humanity within this system is an insult to the very idea of such a miracle, yet a central directive of every HR department these days. Paradoxically it is the idea of the authentic ‘individual’ that served as the essential foundation of modern society. Without a ‘system’ to rebel against, there would be no ‘individual’. Without the ‘individual’, perhaps there would be no ‘system’. Despite my own misgivings about the work’s simplistic “I blame society” style of critique on evidence here (if only we could all just ‘wake up’ we could do what’s right, right?), I still like this movie. For individuals, confronted by the paradox of modern society on a daily basis, showing a ‘little man’ (a description used here in full knowledge of its fascistic subtext) who manages to strike a blow against the crushing gears of ‘society’, whether such a story is real or merely a fairy tale, the emotional payoff is immense.