Movie Project #2: Good Night, and Good Luck. [2005]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Good Night, and Good Luck. [2005]

Good Night, and Good Luck. [2005]
Director: George Clooney
Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Country: USA
Genre: Drama/History
Starring: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels, Frank Langella, Ray Wise
Running Time: 93 minutes

Good Night, and Good Luck takes us back to darker times in the United States, specifically the 1950s when the fear of Communism was running wild. The notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy only added to the hysteria by claiming that large numbers of Soviet spies had infiltrated the U.S. Government. This led to anyone with any connection to Communism, no matter how minute (or even non-existant), getting shunned by those in charge. Who knows what would have happened if CBS newscaster Edward R. Murrow didn’t call him out on his bullshit?

George Clooney’s second directorial effort tells the story of this very public feud between Murrow (David Strathairn) and McCarthy. Murrow first targets the senator’s unlawful attack against Milo Radulovich, a Michigan man who was forced to resign from the US Air Force merely because his father subscribed to a Serbian newspaper. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as the trial of Annie Lee Moss, an alleged spy inside the Pentagon, makes the news. Soon McCarthy is attacking Murrow directly, making false accusations about the newscaster being a past member of a communist organization.

Good Night, and Good Luck. [2005]

To Murrow’s credit, he is able to remain calm and level-headed even as he is knee-deep in McCarthy’s pile of lies. He is especially impressive in how he is able to convince his superiors — those who risk damaging certain professional relationships — to stick with him as he fights back against the delusional anti-Communism parade. His rational and sensible demeanor is expertly portrayed by David Strathairn, who got a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his performance.

While much of the focus is on Murrow and McCarthy (the latter of whom is only seen in archival footage), there are two other subplots involving those within CBS. Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson play a married couple who are forced to keep their relationship secret due to laws within the company. Also, Ray Wise plays Don Hollenbeck, the host of the CBS News show that follows Murrow, as he struggles to deal with an often slanderous press. The latter storyline fits in perfectly with the overarching theme of the film, but the RDJ/Clarkson subplot received perhaps a bit too much attention. The film is relatively short — just 93 minutes — and it almost feels like their story arc was included to pad things out a bit. The rest of the newsroom is fleshed out with small, but crucial performances from the likes of Clooney himself, Frank Langella and Jeff Daniels.

Good Night, and Good Luck. [2005]

The film is authentic in its approach, with gorgeous black-and-white cinematography interspersed with actual news footage from the era. This provides an almost documentary-like feel to the proceedings, adding even more to the immersion into that era. You can almost smell the smoke-tinged air as everyone puffs away at their Kent-branded cigarettes. For the realism alone, the film succeeds.

It’s said that history repeats itself. Perhaps in 40-50 years, we’ll get another film of a similar nature, this time documenting the frenzy caused by the National Security Agency’s breach of privacy that is happening today. Perhaps now, more than ever, we need an Edward R. Murrow.


28 thoughts on “Movie Project #2: Good Night, and Good Luck. [2005]

  1. Dan Heaton says:

    Eric, it’s great that you were able to catch up with this excellent movie. I love what it’s saying about the media at the time and today, and the performances are great across the board. This is a personal favorite.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Eric. Seen this a couple times now, and it never ceases to get old for me. Especially since the state of modern-day television continues to change, and warp into being something that I don’t know if Murrow would be too happy with, had he been alive today.

  3. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, Eric:

    Nice write up of a nostalgically intriguing film. B&W is a nice touch. Though I think the earlier, more expansive, made for television, ‘Murrow’ with Daniel J. Travanti in the lead was a better
    overall project.

    That, and McCarthy being right bumps the ensemble cast and execution higher than the film’s muddled message.

  4. ruth says:

    Oh I really want to see this. It’s one of Clooney’s films I’ve missed out on, but the main draw for me is David Strathairn, he’s such an underrated actor.

  5. Alex Withrow says:

    Great review here, Eric. I agree that due to the film’s look and overall desire for authenticity, it does play out like a documentary. Which is a pretty damn fine compliment to give ANY film, you know?

  6. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    Great review Eric, succinct like the film itself.
    When a film is based on a real story and it succeeds in telling it with the feel of a documentary without being so, then I believe it has accomplished most of what it set out to do.
    Completely agree on your comment about the Robert Downey Jr. storyline feeling a bit unnecessary.
    Lastly, I agree with your last statement, and with your score.
    One hell of a performance by David Strathairn.

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