Goodnight, and Good Luck - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Grant Heslov and George Clooney; Behind-the-scenes featurette; Photo gallery; Trailer.
GEORGE Clooney has emerged as one of the most important filmmakers working in Hollywood today.
Known for his good-looks and easy-going charisma, Clooney has used the success of blockbusters such as The Perfect Storm, Ocean’s 11 and 12 to finance smaller but no-less enjoyable movies that succeed in putting some very important and timely issues under the spotlight.
Audiences can soon catch up with him as a shadowy CIA operative in the political thriller Syriana (about US involvement in the Middle East oil trade) but for now comes his historic masterpiece, Goodnight, and Good Luck.
Clooney produces, directs, co-stars and co-wrote the screenplay for this excellent drama which chronicles CBS reporter Edward R Murrow’s decision to take on and expose the exploitation being carried out by senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950s America.
To put things in historical context, America was in the grip of a paranoid fear that Communism was about to sweep the country when McCarthy set up the House Un-American Activities Committee to expose any potential ‘traitors’.
He then used aggressive trials and public humiliation to destroy anyone he viewed as having dangerous beliefs, ruining the lives of countless Americans who may have been innocent.
As McCarthy’s power grew and the threat of being ‘outed’ had many Americans running scared, Murrow decided to make a stand and expose McCarthy’s bullying tactics, fully aware of the implications for both himself and his station.
Yet with the support of his friend and producer, Fred Friendly, Murrow publicly faced off against McCarthy over the airwaves in a landmark piece of journalism that would eventually herald McCarthy’s downfall.
Goodnight, and Good Luck is an intimate look at the lives of the people in question at a time when integrity and principles meant something and people were prepared to take risks.
Crucially, however, it is not a rose-tinted look at proceedings and isn’t flag-waving in the slightest, lending extra credibility to the whole affair – much like his decision to shoot in black and white.
As director, Clooney is meticulous in his attention to detail, using real footage of McCarthy (rather than an actor) to represent his side of the debate and sticking closely to the facts.
He has also assembled a terrific ensemble cast to fill out the rest of the roles, with David Strathairn on top form in the pivotal role of Murrow.
The actor provides a quietly mesmerising presence as the softly-spoken yet fiercely determined reporter, lending the role a great deal of dignity and integrity without ever resorting to unnecessary showboating.
Yet he is capably supported by the likes of Clooney, who is typically endearing as Fred Friendly, Frank Langella (as CBS boss William Paley), Robert Downey Jnr (as Joe Wershba), Patricia Clarkson (as Shirley Wershba, his wife) and Ray Wise (as doomed reporter, Don Hollenbeck).
Audiences sceptical about the mix of politics and black and white cinematography should cast such reservations aside for Goodnight, and Good Luck maintains a cracking pace and is told in an intelligent and thought-provoking style.
At a time when the world is in the grip of a different kind of fear, it holds valuable political lessons, while serving as a pertinent reminder of how effective an instrument good journalism can be when practised by people who care about the profession.
Clooney deserves the utmost praise for delivering something as significant and enjoyable as this, which really ought to cement his reputation as an entertainer of tremendous worth.
For Goodnight, and Good Luck is that rare kind of film – one that could actually do with being a great deal longer and which is as rewarding as it is enlightening.
It only remains for me to say that it is essential viewing.
Running time: 93mins