Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
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Review Date: February 17, 2006
Director: George Clooney
Writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Producers: Grant Heslov
David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow
George Clooney as Fred
Robert Downey Jr. as Joe
Based on real-life events (what movie isn’t these days?), this film recreates the infamous showdown between trusted CBS newscaster Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy who was calling anyone who opposed him either a Communist or a Communist sympathizer back in those days. Aaaaah, kinda reminds me of that more recent line: “You’re either with us or against us.” That aside, the film does portray the events as they apparently went down, in all of their black and white glory. Get it? Black, white…no grey areas. Deep stuff, folks.
I generally enjoy political dramas or thrillers, and I generally enjoy most anything that involves the uber-charming George Clooney, but this film didn’t entirely bowl me over, in fact, after a while it started to feel more like a documentary, with about 20% of its footage being actual archival snippets taken directly from the 1950s. I don’t mind watching documentaries about politics either, but some of this stuff just got a little too dry and obvious to me after a while, that I was mostly just sitting there, admiring the film’s cinematography, great acting across the board and differences between our times and theirs including: 1) the lack of women in the newsroom 2) the lack of anyone of color other than white in the newsroom and 3) the number of smokers in those days! In terms of the latter point, I was actually coughing at certain points as I watched the film, as almost everyone on screen would have a cigarette in their mouth at the same time, including the damn anchor reading the news on TV!! Wow, how things have changed. Nowadays, only Sean Penn can smoke on TV. Then again, the film’s main point is about how some things haven’t changed at all, with the American government seemingly overstepping their bounds back in those days, and today, well, some of the same “watch your step” issues rearing their ugly mugs.

That said, I’m always up for a good ol’ yarn about the “crappy old days”, but this one just didn’t pull me in as much as I thought it would, especially with its tight quarters and (apparent) specific depictions of what had gone down. As anyone knows by now, the vilified Senator McCarthy shows up throughout the movie as himself—via actual footage from the day. Again, this was “interesting” for a while, but I knew where it was all going, and I got the point pretty early, so the rest of the time I was simply trying to figure out why they intercut certain scenes with an impressive jazz songstress belting out tunes (to pad up the film’s runtime?) or why the Robert Downey Jr. subplot with Patricia Clarkson was in the film to begin with (again, to pad up the film’s runtime?). With those two seemingly superfluous items included in the movie, it still only ran about 87 minutes, with much of that featuring back-door jabbering amongst the newsmen, footage of McCarthy bitching about someone or another and Murrow’s lengthy one-shot rebuttals. I certainly didn’t dislike this movie, but I guess I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be. That said, David Straitharn certainly delivered in the acting category, as did Frank Langella and the great Ray Wise, both of whom haven’t been propped enough, and Clooney also impressed as a director with everything from the film’s look to its use of music (yeah, despite the fact that it felt padded…it was still good music) to its pacing, coming through gangbusters.

Feeling more like a documentary that one oughta sit through if they’re entirely ignorant about the whole McCarthy scandal from the 50s, I certainly can’t recommend this to everyone – especially those who don’t care for “talking heads” movies – but if you enjoy that sort of thing, this one makes its points, short and sweet, and looks good, while doing so. For me, a marginal thumbs up, as Roger Ebert would say. PS: Hey Clooney, how about tossing some screen-cards up in the end, so that we know what happened to all of the film’s principals after all was said and done?
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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