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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.57%
Average: 3.81%
Pretty Bad: 1.9%
Total Crap: 8.57%

10 reviews, 45 user ratings

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Good Night, and Good Luck.
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by U.J. Lessing

"Who knew that George Clooney would become the next Alan J. Pakula?"
5 stars

Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney’s second directorial effort, is a fly-on-the-wall historical drama that values realism over drama. Much of the film’s dialogue is taken directly from TV transcripts and speeches, and apart from Rosemary Clooney’s brief and gentle jazz arrangements, there is no soundtrack to remind you that you’re watching a movie. Clooney has created an important production—an exercise in pragmatism—that effectively captures an overlooked chapter in the history of McCarthyism.

The movie chronicles the on-air battle between Senator Joseph McCarthy and newsman Edward R. Murrow, whose choice to take on McCarthy’s ‘Guilt-by-association’ Communist witch-hunt became a seminal factor in McCarthy’s declining popularity and changed the nature of television journalism forever.

I hate to admit this, but I’m not the best person to determine the accuracy of David Strathairn’s portrayal of Murrow. To my shame, I’ve never seen footage of Murrow and have only heard scattered audio recordings of him from World War II. However, Strathairn presents a portrait of such honesty, strength and intellectual charisma, that I found myself wishing he was on the air presenting political commentary daily. With a lit cigarette continuously in hand, Strathairn’s Morrow softly fights for the candor and integrity of the news, while remaining loyal to his friends and coworkers.

A brilliant facet of Good Night, and Good Luck is its scope. Most historical dramas zoom from location to location and character to character, dashing across time to the glee of set designers and makeup artists. Clooney and Grant Heslov’s screenplay never strays from the mid 1950s and the smoke-filled rooms of Columbia Broadcast System’s offices.

Newsmen and newswomen are enclosed in a world of glass and seem to exist only as occupants of the studios and offices of CBS and the adjacent bar. There are no exterior shots. Consequently there are no face-to-face confrontations with the enemy. All spars take place over the fairly new medium of the television.

In casting the movie, the filmmakers decided to use actual televised footage of McCarthy instead of casting an actor: a wise move similar to Murrow’s decision to give McCarthy a chance to defend himself on the air, uninterrupted. Seeing the real McCarthy’s thinning hair, desperate face, and unsubstantiated pontifications serves as a strong reminder of what unchecked sententiousness looks like.

The film is being lauded (and scorned) as a condemnation of the current media, and of journalists’ reticence to substantially criticize the Bush administration for fear of reprisal. While there are certainly elements of this in the film, I see Good Night, and Good Luck more as a critique of Americans’ current overwhelming desire to be entertained. Watching someone like Edward R. Morrow operate, one comes to the realization that his type of honest intellectualism wouldn’t last five seconds in today’s media.

Today’s popular political analysis has no room for focus or seriousness. Conservatives get their politics from angry fact-bending pundits. (Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh.) While liberals get their political views from clownish humorists concerned more with eliciting laughter than effective criticism or praise. (Think Bill Maher, John Stewart and Michael Moore.)

Good Night, and Good Luck’s greatest strength is that it asks us to remember a time when intelligence and social concern, not amusement, made the media a powerful force.

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originally posted: 10/19/05 08:46:59
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User Comments

9/13/09 Jeff Wilder Great historical docudrama 5 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
7/30/08 mr.mike It was very well done.4.5 stars. 4 stars
5/19/08 davikariout great presentation 5 stars
3/22/08 Pamela White great chronicle of a man's life 4 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold well-done and thoughtful 5 stars
6/06/07 gr117 Excellent! 5 stars
4/08/07 Rosie i thought it needed more context. events happened too fast MORE CONTEXT!!!! 2 stars
11/14/06 AJ Muller Means now what it meant then; don't let fear force lies into being the accepted truth. 5 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth hard to follow; guess I didn't get it 3 stars
8/13/06 R.W.Welch No Hollywood hokum here. Straight stuff docudrama. 4 stars
6/16/06 Billy father, father 2 stars
5/10/06 Craig Call Very well done! 4 stars
5/09/06 Captain Craig Now you know what happened to TV and why! 4 stars
4/24/06 millersxing Powerfully exhibits an attention to detail and a trained focus of the historian's gaze. 5 stars
4/07/06 Quigley one of the most patriotic movies I've seen in a while. strathairn was amazing 5 stars
4/05/06 Annie G I felt like I was watching part 2 of a documentary-when did they introduce the characters? 3 stars
4/04/06 Josh Standlee Sorry, people. It had a great cast, but it ended too quickly. 1 stars
4/02/06 Phil M. Aficionado Precise but not as rich in context as I had hoped; didn't show Murrow as a human w/ family 4 stars
3/30/06 sbpat21 a marvelous film 5 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Too insular, but a gripping and intelligent character study. Superb acting helps. 4 stars
3/13/06 Roderick Cromar This is great! A movie for adults! With brains! 5 stars
3/08/06 Piz Straight-forward if not boring account of McCarthy vs Cronkite. Well done but very overated 3 stars
2/27/06 Monday Morning Extremely antiseptic -- smart but NO emotion, just speeches. 4 stars
2/22/06 malcolm brilliant. way more exciting than 'aliens versus predator.' 4 stars
2/14/06 John Senational piece of work - riveting, exiting and alas relevant 5 stars
2/14/06 Jin Horribly one-sided and impotent. McCarthy's work was taken way out of context. 1 stars
2/12/06 KCobain Boring, dull, and wishes it was All The Presidents Men with its abrubt ending to nothing. 1 stars
2/12/06 helen bradley Interesting, relevant, David Strathairn’s portrayal of Murrow brilliant 4 stars
1/03/06 john bale Tour de force by David Strathairn in a finely crafted and credible film. 5 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands Perfectly handled and realized by one of the greatest & most underrated talents in a decade 5 stars
12/24/05 Green Gremlin :We have nothing to fear but fear itself" - FDR 5 stars
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint The early days of corporate media control over the bewildered herd are well depicted here 5 stars
11/18/05 M.F. superb 5 stars
11/18/05 Robert Braunfeld Caprures a time that seems to be lost but not forgotten 5 stars
11/16/05 Richard Maratea The dramatic scences should not have been filmed in B&W. Major flaw. 4 stars
11/15/05 Taylor Fladgate Oscar Oscar Oscar - take that, Bushie! 5 stars
11/13/05 Titus This was gorgeous, pertinent, and brilliantly executed. Best picture of the year, for sure 5 stars
11/11/05 Ionicera flawed but ambitious and relevent 4 stars
11/05/05 jcjs schizoid J. McCarthy's Hitlerian contamination of freedom exposed by E.R. Murrow, truth 5 stars
11/04/05 baseball-nut Not bad but Clooney can still do better! 3 stars
10/25/05 Suzz perfection in directing, acting, writing and scoring 5 stars
10/23/05 Agent Sands Smart and exquisite filmmaking from one of the greatest actor-turned-directors EVER. 5 stars
10/19/05 the untrained eye proving that "Confessions..." was no fluke 5 stars
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  07-Oct-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Mar-2006



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