Sunday, October 16, 2005

FILM: Good Night, and Good Luck

We'd heard good things about Good Night, and Good Luck, which opened this weekend, and I have to say this film lived up to every good word I heard. Kudos to George Clooney for his outstanding job in co-writing and directing this (as well as acting in it). (This will be Oscar-worthy, though the Academy is generally unreceptive to actors-turned-directors.) The movie is incredibly tight, in its scope (it distills the gist of the Murrow vs McCarthy story into a few episodes, further distilled into just 93 minutes of film), in its shots (much of the camera work is very close up, and nearly all of the scenes are in the newsroom), and in its texture (done in black-and-white, with no musical score behind most of the scenes, but perfectly punctuated with Diana Reeves singing jazz numbers). At one point, Murrow delivers the news of a colleague's death, and ends it saying "that's not much of an obit, but it's just the facts, it was brief, and that's how he would have wanted it." This film was delivered with that same just-the-facts newsy efficiency that typified Murrow himself. Clooney does no preaching with the script, nor dramatization with the camerawork; rather, he lets the plain story speak for itself, knowing that the material itself will give a more powerful impact of itself than any cinematic contrivance could add to. In fact, the script in many places is drawn straight from actual historical transcript, and the film is seamlessly interwoven with period news footage. (McCarthy himself is not enacted, but is drawn entirely from period footage.) David Strathairn positively channels Edward R. Murrow (more Oscar material), and the rest of the cast, including Ray Wise, Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, and Clooney were all flawless as Murrow's newsroom colleagues.

I've heard a couple of reviewers use the word "caustrophobic" in describing the texture of this film, because of the tight shots and keeping the scenes nearly all in the newsroom. I think those techniques effectively heightened the palpable fear and pressure the characters felt, but I did not find it suffocating (in the way that other biopics can be -- Oliver Stone's Nixon or Bob Fosse's pseudo-autobiography All That Jazz come to mind). The style was spare, which I think actually gave the story room to breathe. The film was no more claustrophobic than is a newspaper story for being confined to the printed page. Good Night, and Good Luck deserves Best Director and Best Actor nominations.

1 comment:

Roby said...

"that's not much of an obit, but it's just the facts, it was brief, and that's how he would have wanted it."

Tom:

Make sure you say you're paraphrasing when you aren't citing a quote exactly. I saw this movie tonight (12/10), and this particular quote was perhaps the most touching moment in the film. It needs not only to be left in its original context, but quoted exactly. I invite people to see the film to see what I mean.

Oh, and lose the Republican party already.

Roby