Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
Does character matter in political leaders? Answer
|Featuring||David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Robert Knepper|
|Producer||George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Grant Heslov|
You may not be one who sees everything in black and white, but in “Good Night, and Good Luck” you have no choice. In his second feature film directorial effort, George Clooney manages to avoid a lot of gray area surrounding the blacklisting and Communist accusations made by Senator Joseph McCarthy during the early 1950s, but he does manage to advocate the pure white motives of the broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and his team of CBS reporters. The subject matter is interesting and the message quite pointed, but overall the film was not entirely captivating.
Beginning and ending in 1958 with Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) making a speech in which he (rightly) criticizes the misuse and abuse of television in American society, the film spends the rest of the time in the early 1950s with Murrow targeting McCarthy’s “red scare” tactics. Working with his team of CBS reporters, including Fred Friendly (George Clooney), Murrow targets one specific case involving a man in Detroit who was dismissed from the U.S. Air Force due to suspicions of Communist relations. Their investigation and fight to defend this man (and others like him that they feel are being wrongfully treated) eventually affect this particular case, and also bring them into a public confrontation with Joseph McCarthy himself.
Keeping in the spirit of productions of the 1950s, this film refrains from including most objectionable material. There is one instance of God’s name being taken in vain, but no other foul language was detected. Even one dramatic event involving a person’s death is presented fairly subtly. We can infer what is happening, but no disturbing images are shown with it.
The entire film is in black and white, and this may be for the same reason of trying to capture a 1950’s feel. There may be other reasons, too, but artistically it didn’t grab me as much as “Schindler’s List” or even “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” Functionally, it works well, however, especially since the segments where McCarthy is shown (as well as various television ads) are in the original black and white footage.
Some of the comments and ideas presented throughout this film seem to resonate with some current political topics. If it is intentional, it seems that this film then is using this time in history to criticize things happening today, and some of the lines that are injected reflect this. For instance, at one point Murrow says, “You cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home,” and also states that “Dissension is not disloyalty,” which are some sentiments shared with those who are not supporters of President George W. Bush.
Just creating a film to be current political commentary may explain some of the reason the film wasn’t more evocative. Murrow seems like an engaging enough character, but they didn’t explore his character nearly as much as they could have. The surrounding characters as well seemed to lack depth. Maybe this was because those making the film were too aware of the political commentary they were making. There was a lot of potential for this film, but it seemed to be sold a bit short.
Still, the ending sentiments given in Murrow’s speech that television could and should instruct, teach, inspire and more is something that should be well applauded. This film tries to do something in this same vein.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.