Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by the director
and New Republic editor Chuck Lane; 60 Minutes interview with
BY THE mid-Nineties, talented young journalist, Stephen Glass,
had the world at his feet.
Having landed a job as staff writer on the highly-respected New
Republic magazine (the only publication considered to be required
reading on Air Force One), he also was one of the most sought-after
scribes in Washington, serving as a freelance feature writer for
publications such as Rolling Stone, Harpers and George.
But his career had come crashing to a spectacular halt by 1998,
when it was revealed that the majority of his articles had been
either wholly or partially fabricated. The ensuing investigation
called the very nature of journalism and trust into question.
Shattered Glass, the film behind this remarkable true story,
is a compelling and insightful look into the man behind the stories,
as well as the journalists who exposed them, and the impact it
had on the profession.
It serves as both an intriguing expose of the media world at
that time, and as a gripping character study of both the calculated
and ruthless psychology of Glass, and the humane approach of his
editor, Charles Lane, who risked the wrath of his colleagues to
investigate the full extent of the deceit.
And it has to rate as one of the most honest portrayals of a
difficult profession to date, placing it on a par with timeless
classics such as All The Presidents Men (which it references)
and, more recently, The Insider.
When Glass first appears on-screen, he comes across as a wide-eyed
recruit, extolling the virtues of his profession with an unassuming
humility that has helped him climb to the top.
A favourite among colleagues, who regularly seek his advice,
Glass possesses the knack for getting the colourful stories -
whether they be about drunken young Republicans behaving badly,
in a hotel, during a convention, or a computer hacker, whose ability
to play havoc with multi-million corporations prompts a software
giant to offer him a lucrative job.
As depicted by Star Wars
actor, Hayden Christensen, Glass is an outwardly humble team-player,
whose appetite for success masks a calculated and compulsive liar,
willing to go to extreme lengths to cover his own tracks, including
winning the support of the news-room against the office hierarchy.
Aware of the need to pacify the magazines unscrupulous
fact-checkers, Glass would create false notes in his notebooks
for starters, and then, when called into question, presented fake
phone numbers, contacts and even websites as reference points
for his stories.
In the case of the hacker story, which proved his downfall, he
repeatedly sent his editor, and the Forbes Digital Tool journalist
who investigated his story (played by Steve Zahn), on wild goose
chases, in the hope of buying himself more time to cover up his
Christensen does a remarkable job of presenting the cold-hearted
desire of Glass without ever coming across as too showy, presenting
a figure who became seduced by his own celebrity, to the extent
that he was willing to drag the reputation of his profession through
the moral mire with him.
Of equal merit, however, is Peter Sarsgaards depiction
of Charles Lane (now a writer for The Washington Post), whose
own, unstinting dedication to journalism compelled him to uncover
the extent of Glass betrayal, once the truth about the hacker
article had come out.
It is his performance which lends the film its deep moral core,
and which even serves as an inspiration to anyone considering
media as a profession.
Writer-director, Billy Ray, also deserves credit for keeping
things suitably taut, for refusing to drag things out, and for
playing to the strengths of his talented ensemble, with Zahn and
Hank Azaria also standing out.
The film never becomes preachy or overly sentimental and refrains
from employing too much artistic licence, a ploy which merely
strengthens the overall impact of proceedings, and which makes
it an unmissable experience.