Judicious look at Edward R. Murrow v. Joseph McCarthy
Director: George Clooney
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Starring: Rose Abdoo, Alex Borstein, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr.
Studio info: Warner Bros., 90 minutes
Part of an expanding genre of journalism films that strike like Wall Street did at stockbrokering (see Shattered Glass), Good Night, And Good Luck is most concerned with historicizing straightly and deftly. The film follows the intellectually rigorous CBS news staff of the 1950s—as headed by producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and given a face by Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn)—in its attempt to expose the institutionalized Communist straw-manning of wispy-haired Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Good Night, And Good Luck delves faithfully into said events, utilizing black-and-white contrasts, jazz cutaways and original footage of the Junior Senator from Wisconsin and his belittled targets. Dialogue is colloquially sharp, allotting a small dose of schooling in the quickstep of early television broadcasting.
And, while slightly nudging the tension between advocacy and objectivity, the ?lm ultimately falls short in delivering its personalized burden on those whose careers and integrities are coupled and suspended on the line. Such investigative characterization is instead appeased with in-house politics among Murrow and his more conservative colleagues, as well as his shape-shifting manager William Paley (Frank Langella). And briefly, the intensities become too suffocating for a lesser news anchor named Hollenback (Ray Wise)—whose wife, citizenry and New York critics have panned him for alleged Pinko leanings.
Nonetheless, Good Night, And Good Luck is authentic in its synthesized narration of history. And like any truthful freedom-of-the-press deliberation, the principles are timeless, making it a restrained—though judicious—modern jab.