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GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (review)

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
Written by Grant Heslov and George Clooney / Directed by George Clooney / Starring David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Daniels

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK is one of those Hollywood films that get made at the hands of a major Hollywood player because they’ve played within the system for so long. When you’re George Clooney, you can make the film you want and get a bunch of your high-profile actor friends (from Patricia Clarkson to Robert Downey Jr. to Jeff Daniels) to come on board and no one in the system stands in your way. A certain leeway is afforded you and you needn’t worry about making a film that criticizes some of today’s North American societal staples such as television, the media or even the current presidential rule. I guess it doesn’t hurt to make these criticisms indirectly though.

Of course, no one would care what you had to say if your film was unwatchable, so it’s a good thing that Clooney has a skilled hand when it comes to directing. He tells the story of CBS newsman, Edward R. Murrow (played here with restraint and dignity by David Strathairn) in 1953, as he takes on Senator Joseph McCarthy, intent on exposing his means to protect the United States from the inside threat of Communism for the witch hunt it actually was. The smooth film invokes a sense of exuberant energy with its high-contrast black and white cinematography and jazz interludes (sung on screen by soulful Dianne Reeves). Clooney crafts a neo-hipster, fast-paced look back at a time when people not only didn’t realize the dangers of smoking but, as in Murrow’s case, they did so while they gave their composed telecasts.

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Murrow is introduced as nervously smoking backstage before accepting an award from his media peers. There is a sense that he knows that what he is about to say will be unpopular but it must be said. He then approaches the podium and warns of the potential dangers of television on society as a device that will stump and shelter our minds, ultimately casting a shadow of complacency over all under it’s control. This fearless usage of his power and position of respect will continue throughout the film and his career.

Next on Murrow’s hitlist is the media itself. Much like Peter Weir’s 1976 film, NETWORK, a film that takes place about twenty years after this period, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK presents media professionals aware of the direction their field is heading. They see the future as one where the media will not challenge authority but simply report it without question, essentially becoming a tool for the government to design the image it wants, as opposed to exposing it for what it truly is. Murrow is fully supported by his producer and good friend, Fred Friendly, played by Clooney himself in an amusing supporting role that mirrors his role off camera. Neither is hellbent on taking on the system but merely determined to say what is not being said while they are in a position to have people listen.

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GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK is smart and refreshing. It dares to draw links between the McCarthy era and the Bush Administration, painting them as bullies and consequently showing today’s media as afraid to be the voice of the people it is meant to speak both to and for. Though the point is thinly veiled in nostalgia, it is still a necessary and welcome one.

5 sheep

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