Fearful Symmetry

Film. Books. Comics. TV. Music.

Good Night, And Good Luck

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David Strathairn is Edward R Murrow

David Strathairn is Edward R Murrow

It’s not often, especially nowadays, that I finish watching a film wishing it had been longer, to be left wanting more. But that was exactly the feeling I got when Good Night, And Good Luck finished.

The film is a bio pic but one that concentrates on a one key experience rather than show the whole life – the time when the broadcaster Edward R Murrow decided to take a stand against that infamous Senator for Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. He defies the shows sponsors, and endures producing saccharine star interviews (one excruciating example with Liberace is shown) in order to go up against McCarthy – exposing him in an interview. The black and white filming, reflects the black and white nature of the argument – good vs. evil.

The title comes from Murrow’s war-time broadcasts from London during the Blitz. What became his signing off line, and catchphrase, came from the words some Londoners started to use when saying goodbye to each other, not knowing if they would see each other again, that one of them may be killed by Hitler’s bombing. McCarthy is no Hitler but the film implies that McCarthy’s tactics were as the early days of Nazism. We see horrific examples of him bullying witnesses and twisting the facts to suit his case using archive footage – a conceit that works well. Strathairn meanwhile is electric as Murrow – a truly powerful and subtle performance.

The past truly is a foreign country… everybody smokes all the time for a start; Murrow on air, his show sponsored by a cigarette company. And it’s shocking (but predicted by Murrow) just how far our dumbed-down sound-bite media coverage has come. When was the last time you saw a news interviewer quoting Shakespeare in his closing remarks?

Of course as this is a McCarthyist film you have to have at least one suicide, but apart from that, there are very few clichés. There is a couple working at the television studio who obviously have a secret. Are they secret commies? Well, this subplot is cleverly worked out.

This is very much Georgy Clooney’s project – writing, directing and putting in a worthy performance as Fred Friendly – Murrow’s producer. He’s obviously using events of the past to reflect the present… are today’s governments manipulating the threat of terrorism to their own ends, as in the past the threat of communism was manipulated?

I can see why Good Night, And Good Luck was nominated for six Oscars, it’s a just pity it did not win even one.

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Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 20, 2009 at 10:58 am

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