Monday, October 10, 2005

Review of "Good Night and Good Luck"

There have been many attempts to bring the tale of the injustices of the McCarthy era and McCarthyism to the screen, usually through the lens of those HUAC hearings which targeted celebrities and the creative community in Hollywood. This is the first time that the intense drama around McCarthy's fall from grace in the public eye has been addressed, and it's executed with authority and attention to authenticity. In my recollection, it's also mostly accurate: I think the film McCarthy delivered was shorter than the time available, and rather than reply the following week, Murrow replied immediately and briefly at the end of the show - since TV abhors a vacuum.

The screenplay is rich in historical detail which is unglossed. For example, the Army-McCarthy hearings are covered with a light hand, since they are away from the main subject. But Clooney touches on the roles of Cohn and Schine, and lays the incredible moment of grace on the part of Joseph Welch before us, the moment when Cohn knows the jig is up while McCarthy blunders on, without explaination: and thereby hangs another tale.

As a parable on the proper and difficult role of journalists and the press in a time of fear and abuses of power, this film is exquisitely timely.

Finally, the performances, design and music are great. Strathearn as Murrow is more hardboiled than Bogart, the mid-century corporate decor is spot-on, the spare graphic design of the captions echoes the authority of See It Now, and the musical spots deftly lighten what could otherwise be a very claustrophobic atmosphere. What with all the cigarettes!

(earlier version uploaded to Moviefone)

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