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Good Night, and Good Luck
Posted to Movies at 07:27 AM on May 20, 2006

2005. Warner Independent Pictures. Directed by George Clooney. Starring David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr. and Frank Langella

Good Night, and Good Luck is one of those rare historical films that takes the shortest amount of time possible to explore its subject. It's ninety minutes long but examines one of the darkest and most complicated eras in American history.

Strathairn, in a brilliant, robbed-at-the-Oscars performance, plays CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow. The film depicts Murrow's famous beef with wackjob 50's senator Joseph McCarthy and the effects it had on CBS. Langella's performance as CBS president William Paley reminded me of Mike Wallace, as played by Christopher Plummer in The Insider. Murrow is ostensibly the main character in the film, but Paley's distrust of Murrow and later, his betrayal of Murrow is kind of the turning point and backbone of the whole film. Paley's lack of fortitude affects not only Murrow, but many, many people at the network.

As I mentioned, I think Strathairn is brilliant in this film. He deserved the Best Actor Oscar. George Clooney ended up winning the Best Supporting Actor award, and I can't figure out why. Clooney, in my opinion, has a frighteningly small range and his role in Good Night drives that home in a big way. Clooney plays a smarmy, charming, good-looking producer. He's attempting infuse the character with stand-up family-guy values but is terribly transparent.

There are tons of layers to Good Night. You have the whole Murrow/McCarthy battle in the forefront, but you also get a glimpse of how the whole political climate in the fifties shaped the way a handful of people related to each other. Downey plays a low-level CBS executive who happens to be married to a co-worker (Patricia Clarkson). The couple have to keep their living situation a secret. It would be great if their situation tied neatly into the themes of fear and secrecy running all through the film, but it kind of...doesn't. It's really only mentioned toward the end of the film.

It's details like the marriage and the suicide of a newsman that could have made for a compelling story. Good Night is still a good film, but it's missing some component that could have made it great.


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