banner image

:: Good Night, And Good Luck

Director and co-writer George Clooney gives us a fascinating and compelling film about a subject which gripped the Cold War period in the 1950s, and a theme that, in a different context, still resonates in the 21st century. America was draped by a war of words, in particular, a Senator named Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was on a Communist witch-hunt and Clooney brings to play the famous confrontation with leading CBS Network newsman Edward R Murrow (David Strathairn), who had an influential television programme “See It Now”. He questioned McCarthy’s scare mongering and the “brawl” gripped the public at that time.

Together with his long-time producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney), Murrow and the news team worked up this confrontation much to the chagrin of the CBS executives. Much of the escalating turmoil centred on a report that CBS aired of a Navy pilot who was relieved of duty without a hearing after a security check revealed that his sister and father had subscribed to magazines that were supposedly Communist propaganda. Murrow and co devoted extra time to McCarthy’s self-appointed means of ridding the country of a Communist influence.

Murrow and Friendly are determined to get background information about McCarthy and expose him. CBS lawyer Sig Mickelson (Jeff Daniels) and CBS boss William Paley (Frank Langella) and McCarthy’s people objected strongly.

Events in the film unfold as they did in real life. Clooney relies on newsreel footage of the Senator and, together with being shot in black and white, gives the film a strong documentary feel. There are even musical interludes by jazz artist Dianne Reeves, singing arrangements by George Clooney’s late Aunt Rosemary and her band, that bring a contemplative pace to the film.

Actor David Strathairn obviously made a careful study of Murrow and brings a brilliant portrayal to the screen. Murrow commanded huge respect in his time and Strathairn shows this passionate individual with the subtle shade of tension and disdain. His trademark sign-off for his TV show “Good Night, And Good Luck” provides the film’s title and ironic edge. The dramatic effect of Murrow opposite archival footage of McCarthy is superb.

The other newshounds in the CBS newsroom include fine performances of depth and integrity by Robert Downey Jr, Ray Wise, and Grant Heslov (co-writer with Clooney). Frank Langella is effective as William S Paley, Murrow’s boss.

Overall, it’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking by George Clooney. Its impact is undeniable and strengthened by the style in which it is presented. He uses history to remind us of the precipice upon we now stand. He has proven to be most proficient (already) as a director (great work in “Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind), and this terrific work is sure to be recognised in the awards’ season.

“Good Night, And Good Luck” is one of the best films that I have seen this year. It is very important as well as very entertaining.