Sunday, May 28, 2006

Last Night's Movie: Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

I approached this film with a fair amount of skepticism, given George Clooney's well-known political views and having also read a very interesting analysis in Human Events assessing the film from a factual point of view.

Strictly in cinematic terms, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK is an excellent movie which is well worth seeing. David Strathairn uncannily captures Edward R. Murrow as I've seen him in video clips over the years. George Clooney acquits himself well in a low-key role as Murrow's producer, Fred Friendly, and the rest of the large cast does a fine job, though their characters are somewhat sketchily defined as the action is almost (but not entirely) confined to the CBS offices and matters related to the Murrow-McCarthy broadcasts. The film is visually elegant, shot in glorious black and white, and has an unusual, equally elegant soundtrack, consisting of a singer (Dianne Reeves) and jazz combo in a CBS studio whose music periodically interrupts the action when time springs forward. I particularly loved the set design for William Paley's waiting room, which fairly screamed "1950's!"

I was pleasantly surprised that the film took the time to discuss issues such as reporting vs. creating news, and editorializing vs. reporting. There is a recognition that what Murrow did went beyond reporting; he was engaging in advocacy journalism. Murrow and his coworkers clearly feel this choice was correct, which can be debated, but ironically the film makes a fairly weak case against McCarthy. As Human Events notes, there is no compelling depiction of anyone having their life ruined by McCarthy. The film raises questions about the right of the accused to see evidence -- which all viewers, regardless of politics, will likely agree with -- but doesn't show that anyone was falsely accused. There's a lot of talk about "fear," but not much evidence. In the end the movie was more about the purposes for which television should be used than whether Joseph McCarthy was right or wrong, and the ambiguity of the latter story somewhat clouded the noble ideas presented about television journalism.

Movie fans should enjoy the film's beautiful, stylish execution, and the political aspects make an interesting topic of discussion.

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK is available on DVD.


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