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Sunday, April 22, 2007

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (2005) - George Clooney

As well as being a world famous, Oscar-winning actor, George Clooney also dabbles with directing. After 2002's Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, 2005 saw Clooney approach the subject of journalism and the McCarthy Witch hunts in 2005's Good Night, And Good Luck. Set in 1953, Good Night, And Good Luck tells the story of CBS journalist, Edward R. Murrow who, being disturbed by Senator Joe McCarthy's attempts to expose the Communist threat in the US, set about taking on the Senator and his paranoid, bullying tactics. Backed up by his team of reporters, led by producer Fred Friendly, Murrow put many noses out of place with his reports on McCarthy, which eventually led to a showdown between the two figures. A showdown which cost many people their jobs and careers, including Murrow's own.

Good Night, And Good Luck is a fascinating character study of a group of people who deviate from the usual style of balanced journalism to tackle a subject they feel strongly about. What they see happening to their country outrages them, and despite their own careers, they dive into action to inform people using a medium Murrow himself is worried is descending into a tool that only 'entertains, amuses and insulates' the people. I get the feeling he'd be somewhat appalled at the state television is in now, as news corporations cannot be trusted to bring the people the whole truth. Indeed, the film itself draws some very interesting parallels with the question of freedom of speech and the presentation of fact on the news within the US nowadays.

While Clooney is the star player in the production, as director, co-screenwriter with Grant Heslov and playing Murrow's producer, Fred Friendly, the stand out performance comes from David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow. He delivers Murrow's television broadcasts with intensity and urgency, while never descending into the sort of desperation that may come with such a character. Off-camera, Strathairn shows us a man who used his brain as his weapon, never vitriol or slander. Clooney surrounds Strathairn with a cast of strong actors including Robert Downey Jnr., Patricia Clarkson and Frank Langella. Some of these actors are given subplots that aren't quite fleshed out enough, however the central story is excellently realised. Clooney shoots the film in black and white, matching the era. The scenes where the team brainstorm are staged with a realism that gives you the feeling you are sharing the room and the urgency of the situation with the characters. Clooney uses actual footage, including that of McCarthy himself, for the television reports. A decision that is well made considering the subject matter of the film. Overall, Good Night, And Good Luck is an excellent depiction of an era where television was in it's infancy. And a film that has some very interesting parallels with the state of the world today.

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