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"Good Night, and Good Luck"

Directed by George Clooney.
Written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov.
Starring David Straithairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  10/19/05


It's stunning to see how far George Clooney has come along in the film business, as an actor, as a man of influence in getting films and casts put together, and now, as a director; after his debut film "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", it's amazing to see just how marked an improvement he makes from that film to his current work, "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Based on the work of CBS journalist Edward Murrow during the mid-1950s, Clooney's latest (shot entirely in black-and-white) is smarter, more interesting, more cinematic and more ably performed than "Confessions...", his 2002 drama on the life of "Gong Show" host Chuck Barris.  We meet Murrow, played by character actor vet David Straithairn (you might remember him from "A League of Their Own" or "L.A. Confidential"), in the midst of his career on his late-night weekly issues broadcast, where he has spent the last four years quietly but indirectly going after issues related to the anti-Commie nincompoop Joe McCarthy, referred to here normally as "the junior senator from Wisconsin."  Morrow, with the help of his producer Fred Friendly (Clooney) and a rabid research staff that doubles as his production team, finally begin broadcasting stories and footage from McCarthy court hearings directly...and the results change the lives of those on and off the air at CBS immediately.

I was very intrigued by Clooney's decision to not use an actor to portray McCarthy, instead using actual news footage of his anti-pinko hearings to tell McCarthy's side of the story.  It gives the whole film a docudrama feel that would not have been present otherwise, and it had me hooked all movie long.  That, and Straithairn's incredible performance; monotone to the nines, he creates a figure that becomes as watchable as the real-life Morrow seems to have been back in his hey.  Straithairn has been the third or fourth fiddle in so many films (even checking IMDB barely made me register some of his previous work) that it's amazing Clooney handpicked the man to be the lead in his movie.  Maybe he wasn't the first choice, but he does an excellent job with the material at hand.

And, the Clooney Influence--a whole movie could be made on just this, the man has such reach nowadays--shows in the casting of the other roles; Robert Downey Jr. is just about reduced to "guy in corner" in terms of his importance to the movie's overall cast, but in his few scenes he is still great, thanks to his partnership here with Patricia Clarkson, who is probably a top-three performer in terms of female parts over the course of the new millennium.  Clarkson doesn't even seem to be doing anything, but she's still fantastic here as the wife of a fellow staffer, unbeknownst to other CBS staff members.  You throw in Jeff Daniels, you throw in Frank Langella, you throw in former "Twin Peaks" star Ray Wise as fellow CBS anchor Don Hollenbeck...even the no-names knock it out.

The soundtrack is excellent, the pacing is just right, the film doesn't run too long.  And, in that rarest of circumstances...I learned something while watching a dramatic Hollywood film.  Even Clooney does his best to stay in the background, lest we start to pull for more of his character; the focus stays on Straithairn's Morrow the whole way through, just the way it should be.  I can see now why so many critics have been raving about this thing--"Good Night, and Good Luck" is the goods, and hopefully it will hang around come Oscar season.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09