Related Articles: Movies, All

Good Night, and Good Luck

See It Now.

This is one of the reasons I've waited all year for fall. I've weathered through the throng of insipid summer movies so I could get to see the Oscar-contender films. Which is exactly the kind of movie Good Night, and Good Luck is.

Co-written and directed by George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck is a gem. It is the kind of film you talk about long after it's over. It focuses on maverick broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow (played by David Strathairn in an Oscar-worthy performance) and his very public fight with Senator Joseph McCarthy about, among other things, freedom of speech. McCarthy, who practically accused and branded every single person who spoke out against him, government policies or who was even remotely liberal as a communist threat, is portrayed solely and masterfully through archival footage.

The very concept of freedom of speech and our civil rights were at risk, an issue that still resounds today with the introduction of Patriot Act (substitute "terrorism" for the term "communism"). Murrow, a proven veteran of radio journalism, was a pioneer of in broadcast news. Television was a new field and both he and his fellow reporters/producers, including Fred Friendly (George Clooney), Don Hewitt (Grant Heslov), Joe Wershba (Robert Downey Jr.) and Shirley Wershba (Patricia Clarkson), believed in the power and the ability of television to evoke change; they felt a social responsibility, a concept that seems to be lost today.

While Murrow and his group of producers are somewhat idealized here, the film portrays their drive and actions with subtlety and grace rather than with sentimental speeches set to saccharine musical overtures. Good Night, and Good Luck fully captures the intensity of a newsroom, a time in which they were more like war rooms full of white men who called their secretaries "honey" and didn't get sued for it. You know, the good old days when journalists drank hard liquor out of tumblers and chain smoked four packs of cigarettes a day.

Here, his second feature film, the first being Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Clooney demonstrates skilled, controlled camera work with Hitcockian elements, makes ingenious use of archival footage and eases the audience into the increasingly intense subject matter through musical interludes performed by the indelible Dianne Reeves (usually this tends not to work, but it does here). Furthermore, Good Night, and Good Luck is shot in rich hues of black and white (a choice that is symbolic of the political climate at the time, an era where all was either one way or the other and there was no room for gray).

An astounding opening scene coated with a jazz soundtrack sets the tone of the whole film. The actors, who all inhabit their characters like second skin, are mingling at a banquet. They are joyful yet sad. They are celebrating yet dignified. They are quiet yet laughing. It's all balanced perfectly. The camera work is such that you feel as if you are actually attending the party yourself. It is worth paying admission for this scene alone.

Good Night, and Good Luck is an important, beautiful and moving film that all should watch.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars