Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

28 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Good Night, and Good Luck” is filmmaker/actor/activist George Clooney’s dramatized portrait of CBS’ battle against Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, when anti-Communist McCarthy would accuse any of his detractors of being traitors to the country. CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow (played by an excellent David Strathairn) decides he can’t stand by any longer while McCarthy lies, scares, and destroys freedoms in the name of defending them. So Murrow, with help from producers (including one portrayed by Clooney) and fellow reporters, devotes episodes of his show, “See It Now,” to publicly criticize McCarthy’s methods. Of course, McCarthy fights back, but as powerful as he may be, he doesn’t have the resources to back up his statements. Murrow’s counterstrike leads to Senate investigating McCarthy, which then leads to a sigh of relief from those running from accusation. The story is bookended by the 1958 “Salute to Edward R. Murrow,” during which Murrow talks about the importance of morals and ethics when it comes to media.

“Good Night, and Good Luck” is not a conventional biopic or historical melodrama—it plays 100% straight, with one key focus, a documentary-like approach in execution, and no off-topic subplots (save for a little subplot involving a married couple in the workplace who may or may not be targeted, but that doesn’t distract from the plot in the slightest). Clooney knows what’s really important to be presented by this film: the struggle between Murrow and McCarthy, which is powerful enough on its own. And I can’t commend Clooney enough for using actual newsreel footage of the real McCarthy, instead of hiring a lookalike actor to portray him. (The black-and-white cinematography works in the film’s favor also.)

If “Good Night, and Good Luck” was resonant in 2005 (when it was originally released), then it’s even more significant now, in 2016, sadly. McCarthyism still lives—politicians spread bad publicity about their rivals; they condemn those who question certain political beliefs; and many issues are exploited for any sort of gain, whether they be for debates, news channels, or even tabloids, just to gain attention. The thing is, we may live in a different time than what is portrayed in this film, but watch it again and you’ll find enough parallels to see that we still haven’t learned our lesson and thus we’re doomed to repeat history. That is why “Good Night, and Good Luck” is as important now and it was when it was first released into theaters.

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