Going through all these political films I’ve realised that I’ve not covered a film based on political journalism so what better film to cover than George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck. This film brilliantly covers the war between Edward R Murrow and Senator Joe McCarthy during the peak of the Red Scare, when Murrow could have been arrested for what he said and the way the story is told by Clooney is excellent.
The great thing about the plot of the film is that it never fully gets into the exterior politics of the time, the focus of the film is purely on Murrow and his battle with McCarthy. The film lets you know throughout that what Murrow and his team are doing is incredibly dangerous yet they persevere because the witch-hunts initiated by McCarthy is wrong and the relaxed censorship and lack of government interference in TV, due to it taking place when TV was just starting to be introduced and it’s fascinating when you compare TV of the past when they were free to criticise the government and TV today when they never criticise the government. All of this works because you, along with Murrow, know everything that’s going on is wrong and, as a result, you are on Murrow’s side right from the start.
The performances in the film are uniformly excellent. David Strathairn is excellent as Murrow, the words he says and the way he says them from the shows are incredible and you feel this great sense of trust and respect that Murrow has for the audience. George Clooney is great as Fred Friendly who is very trustworthy, keen to go all in when attacking McCarthy. Robert Downey Jr, Frank Langella, Jeff Daniels and Patricia Clarkson all do great work in smaller roles and I think it was a brilliant move by Clooney to not hire an actor to play McCarthy and instead just let the actual footage of the character play. This really highlights both how over-the-top McCarthy was (to the point where some people complained that the person playing McCarthy was too over-the-top) and shows that politicians today cannot get away with the stuff that politicians did in the 1950s.
The technical elements in the film are also brilliant. George Clooney’s direction is excellent and the music throughout the film really puts you in the 1950s and the whole TV climate of the time, with each song coming at a point where a real-life TV show would end (around every half-hour). The best technical aspect though is the cinematography. The black-and-white look in the film is gorgeous and this, along with the heavy use of smoke, really puts you into Murrow’s studio at CBS and perfectly fits the overall tone of the film.
Overall, Good Night and Good Luck is an excellent film. The cast, writing and production elements are all outstanding and the film really bestows the belief in the power of journalism when it focuses on highlighting wrongs in society rather than bending to the will of the government.
My Rating: 5/5