Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) (PG)
"Good Night, and Good Luck." is an incredibly smart and riveting picture. It's fearless because it embraces the silences and the pauses and gives them their natural power. It doesn't strive to make the viewer feel uncomfortable and it doesn't intend to preach—it simply tells a story and asks a question, the simplistic approach this time is the best way to go.
The film is pleasantly shot in black-and-white, cementing the story it tells in the time period it is told. Set in the 1950s, this movie retells a struggle between broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy.
I was unfamiliar with both Murrow and his work—therefore I was unaware that the movie title was Murrow's regular sign-off. Although "Good Night, and Good Luck." could be a documentary or a biopic, it is neither—it serves a broader purpose and for that, it is rare.
It took an act of courage that is underrated today to run a story in 1953 that would purposely call out McCarthy and his techniques. But this act is precisely what Murrow and his team of journalists did.
George Clooney wrote, directed, and stars in "Good Night, and Good Luck." and his usual tendency to seek out the lime light is pacified. His role is supporting both in character and placement and I think that it was tailor-made for him. This role fits him perfectly.
On the other hand, David Strathairn gives a beautifully inspired performance as Murrow himself.
Using clips and footage of McCarthy himself, Strathairn has to make the viewer believe that McCarthy is a force that is alive, threatening, and present—mission accomplished. It's hard to believe that the film was made nearly fifty years after McCarthy died, because by all the slight of the hand tricks that the film makers manage to pull off, McCarthy seems alive and well.
The one aspect of the film that is worth mentioning is the sound mixing and editing—it's quite sensational. Voices fade when they are not needed and Diane Reeves's singing punctuates the entire film, letting segues happen naturally. This film is one of the best representations of noir because it doesn't try to be noir. It tries to recreate a time period, and it does so with great success.
The performances are all spot-on, never exaggerated nor muffled. Robert Downey, Jr.; Jeff Daniels; Patricia Clarkson; Alex Borstein (that's right, of "Family Guy" fame), and Frank Langella never try to overact or overpower their co-stars—they realize that this is Murrow and Strathairn's story and they let him shine, which he does so well.
"Good Night, and Good Luck." is decidedly anti-cliche. There are no typical crying scenes or screams of injustice, though those would have had a place in this film. The restraint that Clooney and his co-writer/producer, Grant Heslov, show in their script is quite mature and unexpected.
I was completely unfamiliar with Murrow and his show—but I didn't feel educated by "Good Night, and Good Luck.". It doesn't strive to teach you about Murrow and his accomplishes—instead, it shows the determination of a man who was uncompromising. Murrow's refusal for silence might have been his downfall, as the picture somewhat alludes to; or it could be the mindlessness of television itself.
The movie is intelligent, I think I've said that before—multiple viewings will allow the film to support itself. This isn't a one-trick pony.
I was shocked by how much I liked "Good Night, and Good Luck." and indeed, when the last line of the film is spoken and the footsteps trail off in the distant blackness of the screen, you can get the sense that Murrow himself is warning you and wishing you luck.
This is film that should be devoured, not just watched; but soaked up and absorbed.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones