Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good Night and Good Luck. A-

Good Night and Good Luck is somewhat of an heroic achievement. It really means something to George Clooney (he co-wrote, directed, and acts in the film), the subject matter itself matters, it has something excellent to say, and it gives us one of the best heroes the movies have seen in years. Clooney is tackling the battle between TV newsman Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and Joseph McCarthy following the Senator's controversial pursuit to destroy Communism. Murrow infuses his programs with hard data, prudence, and intrepid accusations, all presented in a very professional, composed, manner. His cigarette, the smoke drifting across the screen, and signature line, good night, and good luck, contributes to the composure he manifests on air. The admirable Murrow knows that America wants entertainment when they turn on their TV after a hard day's work. Yet he also sees television as a vital means to promote important ideas and spread them nationally. Murrow doesn't want fame or money. He simply wants to bring intelligence into the commercially polluted minds of the people, to do what he believes is right, and to attack without compromise. And that's really what the movie is about. There's plenty going on with the specific issues of McCarthy, as well as a Clooney's own agenda related to contemporary politics, Bush, and terrorism, but really this is Murrow's film. And in the role, Strathairn gives a classic, understated performance, not affirmative of his talent, but a reminder that he's one of the best actors around. Good Night and Good Luck is a very spare film, taking place almost entirely in newsrooms and offices and shot without flair in traditional black and white. Before style become an accepted substitution for substance, movies like this were made. Its throwback approach is very welcome. In closing, the film departs from its main issues and shows the relationship between business and intelligent investigative TV journalism. In a speech at an awards dinner, Murrow offers hope for smart television. It is true that money usually trumps all, but in the end it is still the people who decide what they watch. It just depends on whether they wish to feed their brains or decay them.

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