Sunday, February 12, 2006

Goodnight, and Good Luck

I saw this movie last week and the one word that clearly comes to mind when describing it is the one Newsweek used: stylish. From a technical and artistic point of view, and maybe even screenwriting, the film is very nicely done. The black and white print is crisp, clear, and the edges and contours of the actors and their surroundings are brought out in vivid focus. David Straithairn does a superb job as Edward R. Murrow, though never having seen the real man, I cannot judge on the make-up job. And there are sections of dialogue that are excellent, and a few laugh out-loud moments, but in general, the script relies heavily on videotape from that era.

The film fell apart for me in terms of the story. There really wasn't one. I was interested in the battle between Murrow and Senator McCarthy, because it's an era I hear a lot about, but know very little about. Besides, as some of you may have noticed (g), I have a passing interest in all things media-related, and so the politics and journalism aspect of this film appealed to me. The issue here was, there was no sense of urgency, or suspense, or what the stakes were for Friendly and Murrow other than they had to pay for their own television ads. Murrow went up against McCarthy in a few televised spots, but what was the real effect on him as a man? On Fred Friendly? On the people who worked with him? It's never quite clear. The only real victim in this film is Don Hollenbach, but his downfall wasn't directly related to the stories Murrow was putting out, so even that angle didn't work as well as it could have.

I'm not saying every movie needs to have a victim, but rather than having long spans of time when we're watching video of the stories Murrow told, it would have been more intriguing to learn about the people producing, to get a sense of how they were feeling. It's an ode to journalism, a message to today's reporters who seem to do everything they can do to not challenge the administration except where interns and cigars are involved, but other than that, it's just a stylish piece of film, with very little emotional involvement -- from either the audience or the characters.

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