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10 reviews, 46 user ratings

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Good Night, and Good Luck.
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by Robert Flaxman

"Good movie, and good luck to it."
5 stars

If there’s one thing that Good Night, and Good Luck definitively proves, it’s that historical films don’t have to be huge, sprawling epics. That kind of history is usually engineered to show the pageantry and grandeur of past eras, but Good Night, directed and co-written by George Clooney, is at least as much about the present as the past. Clooney’s history is a document, but it also serves as a mirror.

Taking place as Wisconsin’s Senator Joseph McCarthy was attempting to expand his influence by taking on the supposed Communist presence in both government and the military, Good Night, and Good Luck focuses on the exposé of McCarthy’s methods conducted by newsman Edward R. Murrow on his CBS program See It Now. Confined largely to a period of about six months between the end of 1953 and the first half of 1954, the film shows how Murrow, producer Fred Friendly, and other members of the CBS News team collaborated on a series of shows that didn’t really start McCarthy’s downfall - but they certainly helped expedite the process.

At a relatively trim 93 minutes, Good Night breezes through its history, going quickly from a show in which Murrow accuses the Air Force of unfairly dismissing an officer whose father was accused of having Communist ties to the shows featuring McCarthy. This is plenty of time to get the point across, however. Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov aren’t simply looking to show how Edward R. Murrow took on Joseph McCarthy - they mean to use this as a conduit for the idea that journalists can do important things and that government can and should be challenged when it oversteps its bounds. Freedom of the press, after all, does not exist simply for show.

Early in the film, after he announces his intention to run with the piece on the Air Force, Murrow is accused by one of the network brass of editorializing. He should be reporting the news, not making it. Murrow retorts, sharply, that he cannot believe there are two equally valid sides to every single story, in particular this one. He feels sure that what is going on is wrong and refuses to keep silent, even as sponsors shy away and the network gets increasingly nervous.

Color-corrected to black and white to give it a period feel, Good Night is sure to ground itself in the 1950s, but the reverberations of Murrow’s words can be felt through to the present day. The film is bookended with excerpts from a speech Murrow gave in 1958 in which he cautions against complacency in the newsroom, and delivers the following quote, perhaps his most famous aside from the one which adorns the film: “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire, but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.”

This is, indeed, a warning that should be heeded. Ironically, the advent of cable and the plethora of channels that dot the landscape have to some degree made it harder for information to be disseminated - now people can simply flip to the channel that is most comfortable for them and not bother to seriously parse the input from it. Despite this, there are still reporters out there doing Murrow’s work - reporting on and challenging what they perceive to be injustices even as the government or other groups may frown upon their journalism. They believe that their medium does still have the power to inform.

Playing the man who seems to have singlehandedly led that charge in television’s Golden Age, David Strathairn delivers a strong performance as Murrow. He has a rare command of the screen in that it seems so effortless, even during those moments when Murrow is delivering a televised monologue and has the screen all to himself - Strathairn is powerful and magnetic, inhabiting the role in a way a bigger star could not. Clooney, as Murrow’s producer Fred Friendly, is a solid second banana; reportedly he was all but forced to take the role in order to get Strathairn, a non-star, cast in the lead, and he does a good job of not letting his own stardom distract.

It is a somewhat sad fact that many times, the message is only as important as the messenger. We should consider ourselves fortunate, then, that Edward R. Murrow was willing to put his career on the line for an important message in one of the most dangerous and divisive times in American history, and perhaps equally fortunate that a bankable star such as George Clooney is willing to do a similar thing now. Clooney’s film is history, but make no mistake - much of its setting is a history we should be careful not to see reflected in ourselves.

Ultimately it may end all too quickly, but Good Night, and Good Luck accomplishes what it sets out to do with the time it has. With compelling lead performances and a powerful thesis, it is easily one of the most important films of the year - and as relevant a comment on contemporary politics as we’re likely to see.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13156&reviewer=385
originally posted: 11/01/05 02:34:46
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User Comments

10/21/20 Louise (the real one) Looks stylish, but boring and completely forgettable. 2 stars
9/12/09 Jeff Wilder Great historical docudrama 5 stars
1/15/09 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
7/29/08 mr.mike It was very well done.4.5 stars. 4 stars
5/18/08 davikariout great presentation 5 stars
3/21/08 Pamela White great chronicle of a man's life 4 stars
10/14/07 fools♫gold well-done and thoughtful 5 stars
6/05/07 gr117 Excellent! 5 stars
4/08/07 Rosie i thought it needed more context. events happened too fast MORE CONTEXT!!!! 2 stars
11/13/06 AJ Muller Means now what it meant then; don't let fear force lies into being the accepted truth. 5 stars
8/16/06 Mary Beth hard to follow; guess I didn't get it 3 stars
8/12/06 R.W.Welch No Hollywood hokum here. Straight stuff docudrama. 4 stars
6/15/06 Billy father, father 2 stars
5/09/06 Craig Call Very well done! 4 stars
5/08/06 Captain Craig Now you know what happened to TV and why! 4 stars
4/24/06 millersxing Powerfully exhibits an attention to detail and a trained focus of the historian's gaze. 5 stars
4/06/06 Quigley one of the most patriotic movies I've seen in a while. strathairn was amazing 5 stars
4/04/06 Annie G I felt like I was watching part 2 of a documentary-when did they introduce the characters? 3 stars
4/03/06 Josh Standlee Sorry, people. It had a great cast, but it ended too quickly. 1 stars
4/01/06 Phil M. Aficionado Precise but not as rich in context as I had hoped; didn't show Murrow as a human w/ family 4 stars
3/29/06 sbpat21 a marvelous film 5 stars
3/17/06 MP Bartley Too insular, but a gripping and intelligent character study. Superb acting helps. 4 stars
3/12/06 Roderick Cromar This is great! A movie for adults! With brains! 5 stars
3/07/06 Piz Straight-forward if not boring account of McCarthy vs Cronkite. Well done but very overated 3 stars
2/26/06 Monday Morning Extremely antiseptic -- smart but NO emotion, just speeches. 4 stars
2/21/06 malcolm brilliant. way more exciting than 'aliens versus predator.' 4 stars
2/13/06 John Senational piece of work - riveting, exiting and alas relevant 5 stars
2/13/06 Jin Horribly one-sided and impotent. McCarthy's work was taken way out of context. 1 stars
2/12/06 KCobain Boring, dull, and wishes it was All The Presidents Men with its abrubt ending to nothing. 1 stars
2/12/06 helen bradley Interesting, relevant, David Strathairn’s portrayal of Murrow brilliant 4 stars
1/03/06 john bale Tour de force by David Strathairn in a finely crafted and credible film. 5 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands Perfectly handled and realized by one of the greatest & most underrated talents in a decade 5 stars
12/23/05 Green Gremlin :We have nothing to fear but fear itself" - FDR 5 stars
12/17/05 ownerofdajoint The early days of corporate media control over the bewildered herd are well depicted here 5 stars
11/18/05 M.F. superb 5 stars
11/17/05 Robert Braunfeld Caprures a time that seems to be lost but not forgotten 5 stars
11/15/05 Richard Maratea The dramatic scences should not have been filmed in B&W. Major flaw. 4 stars
11/14/05 Taylor Fladgate Oscar Oscar Oscar - take that, Bushie! 5 stars
11/12/05 Titus This was gorgeous, pertinent, and brilliantly executed. Best picture of the year, for sure 5 stars
11/11/05 Ionicera flawed but ambitious and relevent 4 stars
11/05/05 jcjs schizoid J. McCarthy's Hitlerian contamination of freedom exposed by E.R. Murrow, truth 5 stars
11/03/05 baseball-nut Not bad but Clooney can still do better! 3 stars
10/24/05 Suzz perfection in directing, acting, writing and scoring 5 stars
10/22/05 Agent Sands Smart and exquisite filmmaking from one of the greatest actor-turned-directors EVER. 5 stars
10/18/05 the untrained eye proving that "Confessions..." was no fluke 5 stars
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  07-Oct-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Mar-2006



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