It's rare that a modernly made period film totally ignores the fashions of the year a film was actually made in favor of the year the story takes place. So the men's beautifully maximum dorky hair-dos of the 1950s (as overseen by Joy Zapata) & seam-perfect clothing from costume desigher from costume designer Louise Frogley as seen throughout Good Night & Good Luck (2005) are alone sufficient to merit praise.
But it's more importantly one of the "serious" films George Clooney makes in between commercial fluff like the "Oceans" series. It's a realistically conjectural "docudrama" of the behind-the-scenes doings of Edward R. Murrow at the time of Joseph McCarthy's House of Unamerican Activities witchhunt.
The film is shot in black & white which further creates the illusion of an actual window into the 1950s, & McCarthy "plays himself" via vintage film footage (a trick also done for Princess Diana a veritable co-star in The Queen, 2006, & John F. Kennedy in Bobby, 2006). There's also a clever yet always appealing soundtrack of musical choices that comment on the action.
Murrow's heroism is an inspiration for our own times of new-speak "Patriot" Act & general underming of civil rights, torture of illegally detainees, & Big Brother monitoring our phone calls, reading our e-mails, analysing our googlings, investigating what we check out of libraries, not to mention government soliciting of gas & electric meter-readers to be peeping toms looking in our windows to report what we're up to.
I found Good Night & Good Luck scarier than most horror films because so much of it remains apropos. I also found it awe-inspiring that a commercial actor like George Clooney would expend his cache to produce a film so utterly averse to Hollywood's commercialism.
The acting is first-rate though some of it, from Robert Downey Jr. as key example, is mere Hollywood performance. One of the best-side roles is delivered by Ray Wise, who I'll hereafter pay closer attention to whenever i see him in any role. He plays television host Don Hollenbech who ends up on McCarthy's hit-list & commits suicide. It is a top-notch performance despite that it is heavily telegraphed melodramic.
One performance transcends mere good acting, & that's David Strathairn in a measured, understated performance as Murrow. Strathairn seems to have understood that the material itself is powerful & he does not get in the way with an antic impersonation, though he manages in some subtler way to really become Murrow.
Murrow was a man doing a job with such honesty & simple valor that he became a true American hero. It was not necessary for this film to exaggerate the point in any manner. It's perhaps stacking the deck a bit to make Murrow & his NBC staff seem like loners in a dark world wholy cowed by McCarthy, for in reality there were others who stood up to that hectoring maggot. But Murrow's part was gigantic & should stand as a model for all of us, not just today's newscasters who, it is a bloody shame to say, have failed massively to measure up.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl