Friday, March 02, 2007

Good Night and Good Luck (Movie Review)

In a time when Anna Nicole, Britney Spears and various other forms of "infotainment" dominate the news headlines, it's easy to forget about the media's role as a political watchdog.*

Take Edward R. Murrow, for example. Notably one of the greatest American journalists in this country's comparably short history, Murrow was one of few watchdogs to actually man his post in the 1950s — that is to say, when Senator McCarthy leashed up his hound dogs and went out in search of Communists, Murrow was one of few to question the Senator's methods (not to mention, all of the civil rights he violated).

Murrow and his team — despite cloaked threats from the military, and despite worries that McCarthy would retaliate by charging Murrow with Communist leanings — put together a series of reports that underscored injustices that incurred during the McCarthy hearings. These reports played a crucial role not only in stopping that now proverbial witch-hunt, but also in the formal censuring of McCarthy.

It's this part of Murrow's career that is the focus of George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck (2005). This mockumentary (if you can call it that — it does have a more serious tone than do most films of that genre) draws from real footage from the hearings, all the while divulging the goings-on of Murrow (played by David Straithairn) and his crew.

And while I think every member of the cast played his/her role quite well, Straithairn's performance definitely stood out to me. Beyond that, I wasn't anywhere near as interested in the other characters, as I was intrigued by the real, reel footage.

In other words: there's a subplot or two at work here, neither of which I really got into. But the main story worked for me, in that it reminded me that it is possible to stand up to the government when it consents to, and perpetuates, violations against our civil liberties. Though, honestly, if Murrow hadn't had the time and experience from reporting in WW II to gain the trust and win over the hearts of the American public, I'm not sure he would've been as effective. Rather, there's a good chance he wouldn't have survived the hearings.

Now there's a scary thought.


*For the record, I do believe many media outlets out there are still "doing their job" and doing it well — or else the Walter Reed hospital in Washington wouldn't have improvements on the horizon.


Thomas said...

Did you see Syriana?

disgruntled world citizen said...

i wanted so badly to like this film, but i didn't. though david straithairn was quite good. it felt like there was "something" missing and i could never quite figure out what it was.