Image provided by m.faz.net, trailer courtesy of youtube.com
David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow.
The George Clooney film Good Night, and Good Luck. is a serious piece of film making about a group of men who, in the height of the communist witch hunts, challenged Senator Joseph McCarthy and ceased to be the non-partisan journalists they swore to be.
One of the main rules of being a journalist is keeping your opinion out of straight news stories and remaining unbiased and balanced. Of course this rarely happens today due to the invention of these agenda-setting news shows like Fox News and MSNBC.
Good Night, and Good Luck. however, takes place in a time where the journalist is seen as a person of truth, not personal gain. One could even say that the paths these men took against the junior senator from Wisconsin transformed the journalists from the guys that report the news and tell you what to think about to guys that make the news what they want it to be about.
Taking place in 1954, this film successfully captures and depicts the true tensions people were under during the Red scares. It was a time when people were convicted of being communists with little to no evidence except word of mouth, the fact that they may speak Russian, or that they work in a government position with access to private information.
This is also a subject that hits director Clooney personally. As a child, he saw the impact the Red scares had on his father, Nick Clooney, who was a television journalist for many years.
Good Night, and Good Luck. is a biographical story about how CBS news anchor Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), along with 5 other (played by some big names: Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Daniels, and George Clooney) were able to do something no one had the courage to do, and something no one ever succeeded in doing: stopping the fear and hate mongering of others by using journalism as a weapon.
While watching this, I was just amazed with the overall quality. Being filmed in black & white (a personal favorite of mine), not only provides an accurate depiction of the times, but it presents an irony as well. During this period, powerful people saw only the black and white side of things.
An example being the mindset of Joseph McCarthy. He accused all those who opposed him of a being communists and, for a time, had the majority of people wrapped around his finger. If we analyze other modern pictures filmed in black and white, we see a similar pattern. Schindler’s List is another good example. We get a feel for the period, but we also see the black and white mentality of the Nazi’s towards the Jews.
From a filming point of view, this plays like something from the 1940s with hints of Noir and a heavy use of mis-en-scene. Clooney does a superb job with his angles, shots and use of shadows. He likes to close in on people’s faces and illustrate the sheer terror the Red Scare created. Black and White, if done properly, represents a whole new ball game of technique. It emphasizes more dramatic emotion, more villainous characters and fear.
As for the choreography and transitions, they are top-notch. Every character, every action and every sounds seem so surgically inserted. The flick of every Zippo, the movements of every chair and every word of dialogue seems to mesh so perfectly and have an almost song-like effect. Characters like Murrow and Fred Friendly (George Clooney) seem so well-developed with such little information provided. Only a few scenes are shown outside of the news room, but even with this lack of personal information, each characters’ work and moral ethic remains strong and gives us the ability to form an opinion.
The most important points to made about this film included the 2006 Academy Award ceremony, and the character of Joseph McCarthy
I was appalled that a film of this quality and importance to news media failed to win at least one of the six awards nominated. These include best director, best actor, best picture..etc. Instead, it was subdued by films like Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Memoirs of a Geisha and Crash. These are very well made films, but do they compare in quality and societal importance? I think not.
A story was recently told to me by a professor about how a fellow student thought the actor playing Joseph McCarthy butchered the role and that’s not how he really was. Well, unbeknownst to them, that was no actor, it was real footage from his speeches in the 1950s. Again, another aspect of this film that makes it so powerful a believable. Using this technique, started by Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis, further shows that this was real. This is not a fabrication, it is a realization of the powers of journalism.