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Good Night, and Good Luck. Movie Poster

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Genre: Drama/History
Rated: PG
Directed by
: George Clooney
Starring: David Strathairn, Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, George Clooney, Dianne Reeves
Released by: Warner Independent Pictures

In Short: David Strathairn and Frank Langella highlight an ensemble cast, telling the 1950s battle between McCarthyism and CBS—with lessons for our time too.

A Very "Good Night"
A Black and White Look at Red-time Journalism
By Andrew Bender

If ever there lived a broadcast journalist who deserved to be called “venerable,” surely it was Edward R. Murrow. Murrow came to fame as a CBS correspondent during the World War II bombing of London and was later the sort of journalist not afraid to be outraged by injustice.

David Strathairn makes a remarkable Murrow: buttoned-down and buttoned-up, sour, self-important, bone-dry, no-nonsense, trim, terse, wry and riveting. This performance is all the reason you need to go see this film.

“Good Night, and Good Luck” (the title comes from Murrow’s sign-off line) recounts Murrow and his crew’s reportage on the pursuit of communists led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, a process so ruthless that it spawned its own -ism. Director and co-writer George Clooney surrounds Strathairn with an ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels and Clooney himself. Jazz diva Dianne Reeves punctuates the film with song breaks.

The movie feels like it was shot for TV, which is appropriate given the subject matter. Clooney bucks big-screen conventions like color cinematography and a heroic confrontation scene, while his images contain telegenic close-ups and archival footage of the McCarthy hearings. The use of black-and-white also highlights the clouds of smoke hanging over nearly every scene, enough smoke to make us (and, we understand, some of the cast members during filming) queasy.

Rounding out the cast is the masterful Frank Langella, who plays CBS head William S. Paley, regal yet torn between breaking important news and not offending a government that may have the power to impede his business. This conflict makes Paley the most relevant character to our age, when celebrity gossip and the latest laser treatments take up TV time that once was devoted to news that mattered. It’s refreshing when a film helps people remember the value of an active Fourth Estate. Frankly, it’s also a little depressing that we need a film to remind us.

(Updated: 01/22/08 NJ)

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