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George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”
James McAvoy, “Atonement”
Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises”
Denzel Washington, “American Gangster”

There’s but one nominee here who brandished no weapon other than words and intellect, and that’s George Clooney. His is a quieter strength, but strength nonetheless.

Otherwise, powerhouse performances dominate this category, none bigger than Daniel Day-Lewis’ epic rendering of Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood.” Compared by some to John Huston and by others to Orson Welles, Day-Lewis may command this award the way Plainview commanded everything and everyone that came in his path.

The other era-spanning picture represented here, “Atonement,” enjoyed a more subtle but also more heartbreaking performance from James McAvoy, a rising star (coming off “The Last King of Scotland”) who could attract a voting body that historically likes to be ahead of the curve.

Denzel Washington was saved from having to compete with himself for a Globe, though his two films, “American Gangster” and “The Great Debaters,” are box office rivals. Nominated for the former, Washington has both the substance and style to make him a serious contender.

What Washington didn’t have was a naked, knife-wielding, wrestling-to-the-death scene, like, say, Viggo Mortensen. Not that Mortensen brought nothing else to the “Eastern Promises” table — quite the opposite — but … man.