I was saddened after watching “Good Night and Good Luck”. Not because it’s the focus of someone who spoke out against what he didn’t believe in, but because it’s the mark of what reporting used to be, and how excellent it was to watch a real reporter go against what he perceived as wrong and un-American. Sure, you can tell me that perhaps Edward R. Murrow wasn’t as valiant as he appeared, but I won’t buy it. Not because of this film, but mainly because he stood up for what he believed in and nearly sacrificed his colleagues jobs and his own reputation in the process.
“Good Night and Good Luck” is the true requiem to real journalism, when journalists spoke out against the government instead of playing to their games. It was a time when presidents feared journalists and didn’t tell them what to print and what not to print. Edward R. Murrow was it. He was the journalist all journalists should strive to be. “Good Night and Good Luck” is not a bio-pic, this is an homage to Edward R. Murrow. This is just the instance of one important man taking a stand against a politician. That politician being Senator Joseph McCarthy. In 1953, senator Joseph McCarthy tried suspected communists in public hearings blacklisting celebrities, prominent politicians, and blue collared workers from ever having jobs again.
Murrow who has stood by with his team watching it happen finally decides to speak up against McCarthy when a worker is thrown out of the Air Force for his father’s suspected ties to communism. Against everyone’s wishes, Murrow and his show director Fred (George Clooney) decide to speak up and challenge McCarthy, an idea that no network on television had enough courage to purse. Simply put, “Good Night and Good Luck” is an excellent piece of top notch filmmaking that beckons to its audience to speak up and out against government tyranny and power hungry men such as McCarthy. Clooney, an outspoken liberal, campaigned to have this film made for years until finally being able to, and “Good Night and Good Luck” will live on for years.
The film begins on a high note with a truly resonant message to not only Murrow’s audience, but to the film viewing audience and then we discover how Murrow fought back against McCarthy, and against his the warnings of his station head. Frank Langella gives an excellent performance as William Paley, a man who stood by and watched Murrow head out on his crusade hoping not to be taken down with him. As for George Clooney, he doesn’t hog the screen, he appears much less than the rest of the cast, but damn, has he ever won my respect. Clooney, who I once declared as just another pretty boy actor has shown that he has a true future in directing, and a true future in directing socially relevant films that will become classics, and “Good Night and Good Luck” is the signature of his artistry.
Clooney’s direction is tight and incredibly responsive to the situation during the film. He has a knack for close-ups exploring the look of fright on Murrow when he confronts McCarthy, and his hearings, and the obvious pressure by his station during his news reports. And much like many excellent reality-based films like “Fail Safe” and “The China Syndrome”, the direction is stark and dreary, and there is no score. There’s no melodramatic swell of the orchestra, or twang that signals a development. Clooney relies on subtle symbolism to get the importance of the films plot across that work especially well; there are commercials between each subsequent confrontations really do expose the sheer importance of the battle taking place before our eyes juxtaposed with its fluffy messages that depict the sheer
uselessness and power over its audience.
“Good Night and Good Luck” is helped with excellent performances by an all-star cast from Jeff Daniels, to Tate Donovan. Downey Jr. and Clarkson are sublime as the couple whom are watching this war happen and have the potential to take part in its downfall, while David Strathairn’s performance is fantastic. He gives literally the performance of his career, and he embodies Edward R. Murrow from his mannerisms to his appearance. It’s about time he gets acknowledged for his performance, and Strathairn finally shows how much raw talent he’s capable of displaying. “Good Night and Good Luck” is a film worthy of being a classic not for the skill behind it, but for the message is represents. In the tradition of still politically relevant and timeless films like “Fail Safe” and “The China Syndrome”, director Clooney’s “Good Night and Good Luck” is a film that will live on for years, because it bears a message about dissension, and the power of the press. A power that’s faded.