In Good Night, and Good Luck. Clooney not only does act, but he also directs and co-writes. It might be easy to say that Clooney is better behind the camera than in front, however seeing as how he not only does well here, but surrounds himself with such underrated yet excellent actors like David Strathairn, Ray Wise, Frank Langella, Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. and still does pretty well shows us the Clooney that deserves an academy award nomination (I can't believe I just typed that!). While pretty well everybody knows Clooney and can name at least five flicks he's been in, many of the above names might merely ring a bell for a lot of audience members. Hopefully Good Night, and Good Luck. can do something about that, because this is a universally well acted piece, and is most certainly proof, seeing the acting and vision displayed here, that Clooney has quite the camera and directorial skill!
In the mid-fifties Senator Joseph McCarthy was on the war path, trying to ferret out any possible communists in any possible hiding place. We know that this backfired pretty audibly, and now the words "McCarthyism" and "McCarthy List" are commonly used in any paragraph that also contains the word "Witchhunt"... not to mention "Jackass". Because McCarthy's inquisition snowballed like a tall tale in a locker room, it took a hell of a lot of courage to stand up and question his methods, especially in public... especially on television. Journalist Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn) was just the kind of courageous man to take on the machine of McCarthy. As opposed to McCarthy's name being spoken with disdain, these days Murrow's name is synonymous with great and thorough journalism. So, while Clooney might not draw a direct exclamation point over which man was the winner of this standoff, History has made this judgment pretty gosh darned well.
In Good Night, and Good Luck., Murrow sees the water boiling around him and his country and pushes hard to use his outlet in CBS News to report this news. Sure everyone at CBS agrees with Murrow, but when a buddy wants to run headlong into the crossfire when going with the flow would be easier than a solo game of Uno, the question of "Why Bother" has to be asked. However, producer Fred W. Friendly (George T. Clooney himself) is quick to advocate on behalf of his anchor, and while certainly not frothing at the bit to take on a popular and influential senator, CBS Big Wigs William Paley (Langella) and Sig Mickelson (Daniels) reluctantly jump on board as well.
Clooney as director brings us a dream project that actually works. Good Night, and Good Luck. (named for Murrow's own closing catch phrase) is filmed entirely in black and white, and meshes well with the archival news footage he uses to great success here. There is no actor who plays Joe McCarthy. He is prominently featured here playing himself. Clooney further adds an edge of realism with his active camera approach, which seems as if it is capturing real events as they happen, but never devolves into the over-shaky and zoom-happy film techniques that lesser directors have used to vomitous excess.
The best part about Good Night, and Good Luck., however, is that it does indeed seem realistic in the all-around great acting! Clooney never attempts to upstage the stars of this movie and is happy to play rhythm guitar to Strathairn's lead. Downey and Clarkson portray married couple Joe and Shirley Wershba who must present themselves significantly differently in their private scenes as compared to their work environment, considering the fact that no one at work is supposed to know that they're married. Ray Wise's Nighttime Anchorman (and close friend to Murrow) Don Hollenbeck is simply incredible to watch. Wise's balance between professional Newsman and emotionally fragile human being is seamlessly blended here. Watch his face, he's amazing! Surprisingly, these are all outshined by David Strathairn's portrayal of Edward R. Murrow himself. It's certainly noteworthy to see an actor win a nomination for playing an expressive or tortured human being on film. However, to play the reserved and solemn Murrow on television delivering news and editorials professionally and respectfully but still showing such a depth is a halo over the head of Strathairn. His serious and stately demeanor never cracks even when off screen, but Strathairn is able to show turmoil, fear, doubt and wear with the turn of a head, the close of an eye or the mildest of expression change.
Good Night, and Good Luck. could easily have become a sanctimonious commentary on our own times, and it could have easily force-fed opinions to the audience as easily as McCarthy himself led a witness. However, this never quite happens. Sure Clooney does editorialize a bit himself, and we're pretty darned clear what his opinions here are, but the film he delivers is a tight and serious commentary not on left versus right, but on the responsibility of the press. Does Clooney advocate yelling fire in a crowded theatre? Certainly not, however, Good Night, and Good Luck. does suggest that when the theatre is already on fire a responsible journalist might in some way want to point that out to the complacent crowd. The message here is anything but sledgehammer in its effect, and the storyteller is anything but ham-handed in the tale.
FIVE STARS for the movie that just might be George Clooney's masterpiece, however, seeing this come to life, I can only hope the man has more in him, in front of or behind the camera. Good Night, and Good Luck. may be black and white, but you won't see red anywhere here... in spite of what the real Joe McCarthy would point out to you. This is a unique film with a unique take on telling a true-life story, while maybe digging a little deeper than it really had to. It's historical and smart, very informative, and economical in its reporting, just like Person to Person and See It Now were in their day. It's good to ask questions now, just as it was then, no matter if you're running dog lackey conservative, namby pamby no preference or pinko commie liberal. Let's just hope that "Universal Offense" equates to neutrality in my case. Well, folks, it's getting close to Oscar Day, so I'll put on my best Juan Valdez and say, Buenos Dias. Good morning, readers, and good sex!
Amazingly in a Black and White Film like this...
Not everything is quite black and white!
Click HERE for Colorful Reviews!
|What's New?||Alphabetical Listing of Reviews!||SearchThisSite:||Advertise With Us!||About...||Lynx Links:||F*A*Q|