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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.57%
Just Average: 3.81%
Pretty Crappy: 1.9%
Sucks: 8.57%

10 reviews, 45 user ratings

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Good Night, and Good Luck.
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Clooney's ode to TV's potential; Strathairn makes it."
4 stars

A longtime member of the John Sayles troupe, David Strathairn plays close to the vest.

He started out badly, as an overemphatic Robert De Niro clone in Sayles' debut Return of the Secaucus 7, but he soon developed a sort of expressive reticence. That style serves him perfectly as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck, an account of the TV news reporter's dust-up with red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy in the mid-'50s. Strathairn's Murrow makes a virtue out of lack of passion. Nobody could accuse him of nursing resentments or an agenda -- he's rather colorlessly dedicated to facts (like his TV contemporary Jack Webb). So when he risks everything to take on McCarthy, there must be a reason.

I enjoyed the movie as a snapshot of a time and a mood -- the paranoia infecting all walks of life, the omnipresent cigarettes, the ability of politicians and television pundits to quote Shakespeare and assume that their listeners would be sophisticated enough to handle it (imagine that today). And there's no question that the film's message, that the powerful medium of television needs to buck its corporate masters and bring truth to the viewers of America, is particularly timely in an era when various lies and distortions about why we invaded Iraq were swallowed whole by most of the media. Good Night, and Good Luck gets credit for the above, though it lacks a certain sense of urgency, of drama. After all, we know how it all turned out -- McCarthy discredited, Murrow vindicated -- and the script, by director George Clooney and producer Grant Heslov, doesn't find enough twists and turns in the factual record to create any suspense. The movie is scrupulously journalistic, sometimes to its credit, sometimes to its deficit as a movie.

Still, I'll always sit for an intelligent film involving actual adult conversations. There's a lot of cross-talk in Good Night, and Good Luck; busy men in newsrooms fire story ideas at each other, sometimes shooting them down in the same breath. The relationship between a married couple (Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson) who both work at CBS -- against the network's policy of employing married couples -- is just about sketched in, but the actors turn their scenes into quiet conspiratorial comedy. Their fear of being found out stands in for the larger issue of the people whose names, rightly or not, have found their way onto McCarthy's unseen list of communists. Murrow, like many Americans at the time, doesn't really care one way or the other about communism; what he's after is abuse of power. His campaign would be equally valid if McCarthy were waving a list of known homosexuals and trying to scare the country about them.

At this point, it should be said that George Clooney (who appears in the film as Murrow's producer Fred Friendly) is interested in using his power for good -- not just politically. He does films like Ocean's Twelve to keep himself bankable so that he and business partner Steven Soderbergh can make smaller, more challenging films. I wasn't impressed by what Clooney, in his directorial debut, did with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; he took acidly farcical material and made it depressing. But the film also established that he at least had integrity, and wasn't interested as a director in ingratiating himself with the mass audience. Good Night, and Good Luck is much more pleasurable, shot in nostalgic black-and-white by Robert Elswit and given a crackling pace by editor Stephen Mirrione. Clooney, whose father spent years in broadcast news, clearly enjoys revisiting the salad days of the medium, when everything from comedy to drama to news was live. The real urgency in the film comes not from its narrative and resolution but from its milieu.

Clooney wears his mantle lightly. Murrow didn't preach; he simply spoke sensibly and soberly for rationality and fairness, and so does Clooney. The movie is bracketed by a speech Murrow made years later at the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation. He talks about the responsibility of television to do more than "distract, delude, amuse and insulate" viewers -- to be more than "wires and lights in a box." That, moreso than any message about red-baiting and its parallels today ("If you're not with us, you're against us"), is what Clooney -- who has done his share of distracting and amusing on TV -- wants us to take with us.

Far from biting the hand that fed him, Clooney has made a valentine to what television once was and -- perhaps -- can be again.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13156&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/23/07 20:34:25
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User Comments

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 Strathairnís 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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