Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Journalist Edward R. Murrow goes on a witch hunt against Senator Joseph McCarthy, and for decent reason: McCarthy's hysterical "red scare" tactics in Washington are trickling into the greater American experience. Mere accusations of Communist sympathy are suddenly enough to ruin careers, marriages, lives. Murrow takes the high ground, using McCarthy's tactics against the man himself. But will his own career survive when the inquisition inevitably boomerangs back to him? George Clooney's history-as-allegory is suitably presented in black and white, as that's the way he's shaded the story. This is not a biopic, not a film focused on subtlety of character; it is very cleanly fictionalized events washed in appropriate sociopolitical philosophy, and presented with documentary aplomb. The principals are conduits for their belief systems, but the fine performances keep the proceedings from being a simple lesson in civics -- as in the tiny moment when Murrow (David Strathairn) completes a vacuous interview with Liberace: the On Air light dims and Murrow's smile implodes, exposing his professional dyspepsia at having to stoop so low. The radical idea that reporting should not necessarily pretend to be non-biased, especially in self-evident cases of injustice and democratic crisis, is played well against the more commercial notion of simply giving the people what they want: sheer entertainment. What good is a light in a box if it doesn't provide some warmth?