GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
Based on the real-life 1950s conflict between the principled CBS television broadcaster Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and Senator Joseph McCarthy, the story documents the impact of McCarthy's discredited and underhand methods of hounding communists and sympathizers, whether real or imagined. With a desire to report the facts and enlighten the public, Murrow and his small team of journalists, including Fred Friendly (George Clooney) defy corporate and sponsorship pressures to unveil the undemocratic nature of the Senate committee's activities.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Beautifully shot in black and white by Robert Elswit, George Clooney's engaging dramatisation (Best Screenplay, Venice, 2005) of a despicable episode in recent US history is a shining example of good journalistic filmmaking depicting good journalism. On that score alone, I admire and champion the film, and hope that many of my fellow professional journalists will be at least tempted to return to serve ideals of our craft.
But journo bleeding hearts aside, the film is a wonderful recreation of history for two powerful reasons. First, it is painstakingly accurate in every detail, from the wardrobe and props to make up and body language. This is also reflected in details such as the tubby middle aged lady cast to play the secretary to CBS boss Bill Paley (Frank Langella). They valued experience in the 50s, above looks and youth. And of course the facts of the story.
Secondly, it is made with an intense focus rarely seen even in fact based stories: Clooney and editor Stephen Mirrione have sown archival footage into the film with such inventive bravura (and so seamlessly) that they didn't need an actor to play McCarthy, for example, and the film is all the more powerful for it. The end result is that the film really does play almost like a factual doco.
Superb performances from Strathairn as Murrow (Best Actor, Venice, 2005) and Langella as the boss, and of course from the marvellous supporting cast, like Robert Downey jnr and Patricia Clarkson as the secretly married colleagues - a no-no at CBS, and used as a part of the movie's subtext about the insidious nature of the McCarthy witch hunt. Apropos of that, I can't help thinking how ironic the McCarthy episode was: here was the flagship of democracy and personal liberty, the mechanism of the US Government, using the very same corrosive methods to root out communists that were being used by the communist dictatorships to root out 'foreign sympathisers'.
No wonder, then, that 'good night, and good luck' Murrow's famed sign-off, soon acquires a darker subtext.
Review by Louise Keller:
A striking docu drama about principles and democracy, Good Night, and Good Luck is a fascinating insight. Exploring the ground breaking events in the 50s when television news reporter Edward R. Murrow defiantly clashed with Senator McCarthy in his witch hunt for communist sympathisers, George Clooney's film shows how Murrow became somewhat of a hero, standing up for what he believed in and in so doing, changed the course of journalism. Journalists are meant to report the news, not make it. Yet Murrow's televised attack on the Senator made news and changed many things, including the politics of the day as well as the lives of the parties concerned.
Good night and good luck was the sign off that Murrow used to conclude his television broadcasts. It was an individual signal that exemplified the confident yet controversial tone of the topics he selected and the non-compromising nature of the man himself. Clooney delivers all the resonances of the era, taking us right into the tv station and the newsroom, where Murrow and his colleagues thrashed out ideas, made decisions and then reviewed the consequences. Real life footage (of McCarthy) is integrated flawlessly, making the retelling of the events even more potent.
Shot in stark black and white, the detail is exemplary - from the authentic costumes, make up and hair to the specific casting of every character, irrespective of how small a part they played. David Straithairn embodies Edward R. Murrow with such intensity, it's not surprising that during shooting, Clooney would forget it was not Murrow himself. Straithairn is Gary Cooper-esque and reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart as he uses a smouldering cigarette as a prop on air. This is television in the 50s; we are reminded of the process with hand-written cue cards and the close involvement of the news team. Clooney wears a 50s haircut, loose suits and owlish glasses and each cast member also looks the part; Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jnr, Patricia Clarkson and Grant Heslov, who co-wrote the script with Clooney.
Murrow was a pivotal figure in the life of Clooney's news-anchor father, and the liquid jazz notes that soar effortlessly from crooner Dianne Reeves breaking up the action, could also be a tribute to his aunt Rosemary Clooney. Clooney has made a film close to his heart about a topic that he knows well. And it shows.
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GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (PG)
CAST: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey jnr, Jeff Daniels, Frank Langella
PRODUCER: Grant Heslov
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
SCRIPT: Grant Heslov, George Clooney
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswit
EDITOR: Stephen Mirrione
PRODUCTION DESIGN: James D. Bissell
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 15, 2005 (previews December 9 - 11)