Good Night and Good Luck - 10th May 2011

At some point George Clooney went from the guy who did a cameo in Return to Horror High to directing and starring in films about human rights, civil liberties and the nature of the media in our life. He also did it with good grace, a good sense of humour and a string of beautiful ladies on his arm.
For a second film as a director "Good Night and Good Luck" is an incredible achievement, hell I would be amazed if this was his tenth film!
Shot in glorious, crisp black and white, filled with fantastic actors and telling the true story of a battle of words, famous radio & TV journalist, Edward R Murrow had with Senator McCarthy at the height of the communist paranoia era in America, Good Night and Good Luck is a rich, fascinating, naturally paced, intelligent bit of film making we end up seeing all too rarely these days.

Based on actual transcripts from actual telecasts, recollections from various books by or about the people involved and watched closely, helped or filled in by surviving relatives, Clooney and his writing and producing partner, Grant Heslov, have taken careful steps to make the whole thing as factually accurate and as authentic as possible.

The action is framed by a speech Murrow made at an awards dinner, about the nature of the television, the media and its ability to be used as a source of genuine facts and learning, if only for a couple of hours a day. You, of course, only have to look at the utter puddle of effluent that modern television is today to see that nobody heeded his advice.

The genius is that this film was able to not only comment on the idea of government abandoning the laws and constitution for its own agenda, which, of course we have seen in the last decade and know all too well the ramifications of that, but also to criticise modern media's inability to hold them accountable, as they should, by simply using fact and carefully chosen words.
The thing that hits home, watching this film, is how intelligently and how precisely Murrow used his words, yes he believed that not every story had an equal side and in some cases people could just be wrong but he offered his editorial opinion using clear arguments, backable by hard facts. It must've been an absolutely captivating and riveting time to be alive.

Nowadays I can't even believe most newsreaders can spell the word fact let alone know how to carefully research one and use it correctly, it's disparaging and hopeless. I have watched clips of the real Edward R Murrow speak and it is just phenomenal that there used to be a world where journalists would speak calmly and eloquently, not talking down to or patronise their audience but assume they were as intelligent as them, even going so far as to casually quote Shakespeare to make their point and close their statements.
It just brings into glaring relief the fact that they now use freedom of the press to give credence to the utter mindless bilge spewed forth by gas bag morons like Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly.

Other highlights of the film are the period authenticity and the range of interesting characters. Clooney obviously loves this golden age of television and has looked at it from both sides, the frivolous game show side in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which was great but a little stylised and muddled, and the serious, factual side in this, the superior film, Good Night and Good Luck.
Apart from the black and white and the occasional theatrical lighting, this film is not, at first glance, as showy or as flashy as Confessions and yet in telling a true story, as correctly as possible, with the utmost attention to detail, Clooney, backed up by the performances of his incredibly talented cast and the words of Edward r Murrow, has actually managed to create something very visually arresting, with layers, depth, style and substance.

He's not even preachy with it, you can take from it what you will because exactly like Murrow did with McCarthy and simply projected his own words for the audience to decide, so has Clooney and Haslov with Murrow. It's a masterful piece of film making.

Recently, because of the state of television news, internet news and the world in general I decided, because I was being driven quite mad by it all, to just concern myself with fiction. Not pure stupid entertainment but good fiction because in all honesty, nowadays, as Good Night and Good Luck proves, you can learn more from a creative and intelligent retelling of the past than you can from watching the news of the present.

10 out of 10

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