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Return to 2006 Films

Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

Good Night and Good Luck

A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)

In the early days of broadcast journalism, TV newsman Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn) takes on Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Murrow and his staff, including producer Fred Friendly and Joe Wershba, defy corporate pressure and bring to light the shady tactics perpetrated by McCarthy during his search for communists. What results is a public feud and a backlash against McCarthy that cements Murrow's place in journalism history.

Featuring: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise (more)

MPAA Rating: PG - for mild thematic elements and brief language

Genre: Drama, Historical, Political

Running Time 90 minutes

The first thing that struck me about this film is the stunning black and white photography. The second thing that struck me is the cigarette smoke. In one scene at a banquet, every single person seems to have a cigarette in hand. These two elements transport us back to the 1950's, when television was in its infancy. Thus the stage is set for George Clooney’s engrossing depiction of the confrontation between TV journalist Edward R. Murrow (excellently played by David Strathairn) and Communist-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy.

“Good Night, and Good Luck” was a Murrow’s signature phrase as he signed off his program, “See It Now.” In 1954, Murrow, supported by his producer Fred Friendly (Clooney), decides to take on the feared Wisconsin senator. This required taking a stand against the scare tactics and intimidation of McCarthy. Such a stance would require courage and integrity, as well as the backing of the network, CBS. William Paley, head of CBS, warns of the loss of sponsors, but Murrow and Friendly said they would personally make up for any lost revenue. Nervously, Paley agrees to back the decision.

Perhaps thinking that no one could play McCarthy better than the Senator himself, Clooney cleverly uses actual film of McCarthy. In a technically seamless way, the footage of McCarthy in the Senate and on “See It Now” are interwoven with the dramatic film. You can feel the tension as the McCarthy and Murrow take their positions.

Murrow’s courageous decision to take on a US Senator in the midst of the Communist scare was a risky one indeed, and there were casualties. When fellow CBS news reporter Don Hollenback praises Murrow on air, he becomes a target of print columnists who support McCarthy, with a tragic outcome. Murrow himself has to fend off accusations about his own patriotism.

A more far reaching casualty of the confrontation was the loss of Murrow’s investigative reporting from television on a regular basis. Even though Murrow helped to publicly discredit McCarthy, and thus win a victory for freedom, “See It Now” was relegated from its weekly prime time slot to a monthly Sunday afternoon slot. The loss of sponsors and revenue eventually won out. We know this is the beginning of what passes as television news now. Today we have soft news, heavy on entertainment and personal interest stories, and light on hard-hitting journalism championed by Murrow. Today, news is entertainment. Local newscasts are rarely more than car crashes and reports of violent crimes. It’s ironic that Murrow is honored by all journalists today, even though he could not find a home on contemporary television.

Despite a distracting subplot about married employees in the newsroom, Good Night, and Good News is a fine film. As a dramatic film, it’s engrossing, well-written and acted. More importantly, Clooney and his collaborators have made a film that values personal integrity, courage, and Veritas. Good Night, and Good Luck is a reminder to all seekers of truth of the rewards and perils of such a noble quest.

Tom Condon, OP

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