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|Good Night, and Good Luck.|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir George Clooney|
scr George Clooney, Grant Heslov
with David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr, Ray Wise, Patricia Clarkson, Frank Langella, Jeff Daniels, Tate Donovan, Tom McCarthy, Matt Ross, Reed Diamond, Dianne Reeves
release US 7.Oct.05, UK 17.Feb.06
05/US Warner 1h33
News time: Clooney, Downey and Strathairn
For his second film as director, Clooney takes a surprising sidestep into political drama with an astute, fascinating, entertaining true story about a journalist who took a stand against injustice.
Edward R Murrow (Strathairn) was the pride of CBS Television in 1953, so when he and producer Fred Friendly (Clooney) decided to confront Senator Joe McCarthy over his communist witch-hunt methods, the network boss (Langella) stood behind him. This was a daring report to make, because a climate of fear gripped the nation, allowing McCarthy to violate constitutional rights in the name of freedom. The entire pool of CBS newsmen (Downey, Clarkson, Donovan, McCarthy, Ross, Diamond and more) put their necks on the line as well.
This is fairly dense filmmaking, focussing on the power of words. And the script is a marvel of intelligent, provocative writing, blending Murrow's lacerating monologues with a jagged, cynical journalistic humour. It's rare to find a film that appeals so engagingly to our minds, and yet Clooney also manages to make us gasp with a few powerfully visceral sequences (Murrow's first wave-making broadcast is devastating).
And it looks gorgeous--beautifully lit and fluidly shot in black-and-white by veteran Robert Elswit, plus a gentle, pace-setting jazz score featuring vocalist Reeves (cleverly shown in a TV studio down the hall). Meanwhile, the performances are so earthy and real that we feel like we're watching the actual events unfold, a tone that's enforced by the inclusion of extensive actual news film. Standout performances are from the astonishing Strathairn and Wise, as a tormented anchorman caught in a vice grip of suspicion.
Yes, it's somewhat wordy and worthy, but Clooney tells the story sparingly, never inflicting self-indulgent side-roads or gimmicky film styles. He keeps it cracking right along. And the best thing about the film is its relevance. As the characters debate and exemplify issues of objectivity, balance and conscience, this film becomes essential for journalists. This is a cry for proper responsibility in media that have sold their soul to advertisers and government manipulation. And in that sense, it's essential for everyone.
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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