'good night, and good luck.' ***** 030406
Theatrical Review (2005)

The Work = *****
For those that seemed to wonder whether George Clooney was a solid director, 'good night, and good luck.' serves as ample evidence. His first film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was good but some critics seemed to question Clooney’s involvement in the direction of the film. I guess those that wanted to be really cynical could argue that the guy just got lucky and made a good movie. It would be pretty hard to say he got lucky twice and made good films.

I think good night, and good Luck. is a better film (although I like 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' quite a bit.) 'good night, and good luck.' tells the story of Edward R. Murrow a news anchor who gained a reputation during World War II doing radio broadcasts. After the war he moved to television, working for CBS. The film follows him during his TV days as he makes the difficult stand to examine and confront Senator Joseph McCarthy on the air. McCarthy’s anti communist crusade is in full swing in the film and paranoia is high. So high is the fear of being called a communist sympathizer that CBS makes its employees sign a sort of pledge-contract to the country.

Murrow is played by the excellent actor David Strathairn who internalizes much of his emotions. He plays Murrow as a quiet man who sits while the news staff whirls around him and speaks after the noise has died down. Murrow’s producer Fred Friendly (Clooney in a supporting role) handles wrangling the news staff and Murrow himself for that matter. Strathairn has been making movies for awhile now but has never really reached star status. Filmmakers noticed him however and he can be seen in many roles in films by directors like John Sayles and Curtis Hanson. He has the ability, like many great actors, to sort of slide into roles without altering his appearance much. His performance here helps give a center to the film. Strathairn gives a strong sense of character in a role that focuses more or less on one narrow part of Murrow’s life.

Clooney, co-wrote the film (with Grant Heslov,) as well as directing and acting in it and handles everything with expert skill. His father was in television and I suspect it helped give him the insight in to what it might have been like at the CBS studios. One technique that I found especially effect is how he shows Murrow before, during, and after his news broadcasts. He shows, a studio filled with noise and commotion and then suddenly silent just before Murrow goes live on the air. Murrow, sits focused, waiting for his cue from Friendly (who sits so close off camera that he can tap Murrow the leg.) When Murrow signs off the room fills with noise again as Murror goes silent. Strathairn captures, the pressure and sometimes the relief in Murror’s face before and after the broadcast.

Every element in 'good night, and good luck.' comes together and works to make a satisfying dramatic thriller. I don’t have the time to go over everything that there is to admire in the film but I will say if I was forced to pick the best movie of last year that I saw, this would be it. A clever storytelling device that has received some attention is the use of actual footage of McCarthy. There is no actor that plays him in 'good night, and good luck.', just the footage of the real McCarthy. It is surprisingly effective, as the man never really confronted Murrow in person but instead sent the news team footage of his chilling rebuttal.

By now it is probably clear that I really enjoyed this film and am giving it the highest recommendation I can. Clooney has placed himself now alongside the likes of Clint Eastwood as one of the better actor/ directors working today. 'good night, and good luck.' is shot entirely in black and white and that helps give it a timeless quality. The cast and crew under Clooney’s direction have made an engaging film about an important time in history that has real relevance today. I cannot recommend this film enough. See it!


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