Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Paradoxally, not too many people recognize the parallel between the situation in the west today concerning terrorists and that of the 50s (in particular) concerning communists. We had it in Europe as well (and in Norway, where I come from) but few took that witch hunt further than US Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. If nothing else, he at least achieved having an ism suffixed to his name.
In his second feature film, increasingly politically expressive actor-turned-director, George Clooney both gives a brilliant portrait of a pivotal time and state in American politics/media as well as makes a statement of the paradox mentioned in the previous paragraph. That is a grand total worth appreciating, but Good Night, and Good Luck has more to offer as well. Clooney's tasteful direction is a homage to a less vulgar and hectic time in film history. Even though his story unfolds in the anything but sedative business of news reporting, there is a calm rhythmic feel to the pacing and editing. Cinematographically, the film is, if not groundbreaking, then at least very aware (note the delayed focusing), wanting to give the film an immediate feel without being too disjointed. Clooney balances this impressively, and it works very well.
David Strathairn, that long underused and underestimated character actor from John Sayles films, is the perfect choice in the lead. Not only does he look the part perfectly, but he completely nails Murrow's mannerisms, implicit humour and force. Not having seen too much of Strathairn's earliest work, he was for me a revelation in the sleeping classic Dolores Claiborne. In Good Night, and Good Luck, he really peaks, giving life to his character and heightening the suspense of Clooney's drama.
Because that is perhaps what is most impressive with Good Night, and Good Luck. Although it is a historical document of not unknown conclusions, Clooney's tight direction and incredibly thorough examination of his subject makes it all an exciting view as well. Clooney himself plays Murrow's producer Fred Friendly in a deliberately subdued fashion. Among a fine ensemble, the other one to really stick out is definitely Frank Langella, who has some great scenes as CBS executive William Paley. His scenes with Strathairn are vibrant.
Clooney opted to shoot in black and white, and also to avoid using an actor to play McCarthy, instead taking use of actual archive television footage. Of course, these are means that diminish the distance between our time and the time of our protagonists. However, it is also a choice that could threaten to make an already serious story less entertaining. But then again, in the words of Ed Murrow himself, to entertain isn't television's (nor cinema) only business. If one's interested, one could actually learn something. Well, Good Night, and Good Luck manages both. And if you're patient, you'll find lots of humour in here as well - notably at the hands of Kent cigarettes. This is a film that might just be a testimony of a great director in the making.