Good Night, and Good Luck.
George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., George Clooney, Ray Wise, Frank Langella, Tate Donovan, Reed Diamond, Glenn Morshower, Don Creech, Grant Heslov
PG (For mild thematic elements and brief language)
Before Walter Kronkite, the most trusted name on television was Edward R. Murrow. He stood up for causes he believed in and elevated journalism to a new level. Good Night, and Good Luck focuses on his famed battle with Communist-hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
David Strathairn captures every vocal pattern and nuance of the great Murrow and creates an indelible performance that helps buoy the sophomore effort of director, and burgeoning political activist, George Clooney. Clooney also stars as Murrow’s supportive producer and friend Fred Friendly.
Murrow was a great supporter of press freedom and the rights of average Americans. It is through his valiant efforts and threatened security that we learn what a courageous individual he was. McCarthy investigated him, looked into the lives of his coworkers and generally did everything in his power to try and bring his harshest critic down. We understand this through the narrow view as presented by Clooney.
There are many strong scenes in Good Night, and Good Luck, but few resonate more than the ones involving Murrow’s attempts to highlight the irrationality of the Communist witch hunt after a soldier is discharged because members of his family are labeled Communist.
The film’s only downside is its inability to focus. The characters of Shirley (Patricia Clarkson) and Joe Wershba (Robert Downey Jr.)are virtually unnecessary to the film’s theme. Joe and Shirley are secretly married despite the network’s rules against such. They may show that CBS wasn’t as forward-thinking as its liberal commentator but with the film barely topping90 minutes, they seem more like filler. Had the film focused more on Murrow vs. McCarthy, perhaps these characters wouldn’t have figured in at all.
Murrow’s efforts are part of the grand series of turning points that brought greater freedoms to Americans. Much of the film’s resonance lies in the parallelism to current events. At a time when American freedoms are being curbed in an effort to find terrorists (modern America’s Communists), films like this serve a higher purpose.
We are constantly reminded of the adage “if we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it.” History is filled with such repetitions. We never remember our past mistakes when attempting to progress forward. What Clooney has done with Good Night, and Good Luck is remind us of the country’s past misdeeds as well as show us the path out of it. Stand up and make your voice heard. Fight against discrimination and against attempted governmental control of your lives. Don’t let the War on Terror emerge as the 21st Century’s Red Scare despite the similar trajectory. Learn from past mistakes.
September 13, 2006