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Good Night And Good Luck (2005)
The year is 1953. With Senator Joe McCarthy ranting all over TV about Communist threats, painting hundreds of innocent Americans with the pejorative term "Red", one man, Edward R. Murrow, and his fellow colleagues at CBS decide to take a stand.
Written by: George Clooney and Grant Heslov.
Directed by: George Clooney.
Genre: Drama, History
Tagline: "You know, it occurs to me we might not get away with this one"…
The year is 1953. TV is on the rise and still novel in the American household. Still, it is a novelty that is commonplace enough to offer powerful potential to sway the American public’s opinions; specifically, the opinions of communism. With Senator Joe McCarthy ranting all over TV about Communist threats, painting hundreds of innocent Americans with the pejorative term “Red”, one man, Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), and his fellow colleagues at CBS and Columbia Broadcasting Studios decide to take a stand, to the demise of many superiors within and exterior to their company.
While Ed Murrow and fellow colleague Fred Friendly (George Clooney) do their best to pitch a valid rationale for their anti-McCarthy cause, CBS endorser Sig Mickelson (Jeff Daniels) sits hesitantly in lieu of a potential political upheaval on the horizon, as ignited by his own employees. Issuing the terse remark, “Go after Joe Kennedy, we’ll pay for it”, Sig avidly desists in supporting Murrow and Friendly’s “radical” stance. Still, Murrow convinces Sig to grant permission to run his and Friendly’s editorial, in exchange for his and Fred’s endorsing the cost of the Ads. Ads which, endorsed by military-affiliated ALCOA corp. and other such conservative organizations will refuse to fund become the main-stake for the argument against Murrow’s show. Still, with Fred and Murrow’s eagerness to supplement costs and take a stand, they proceed, with caution to “navigate dark waters’ and begin their infamous nightly broadcast.
Using the rhetoric of McCarthy’s blatant violation of the individual’s rights of the Constitution, Murrow and Friendly (the show being broadcasted with Murrow in the spotlight) attack McCarthy’s inadequate accusations which rest on blatantly false facts that initiate invalid and unjust fates for his victims. But with only a few friendly, no pun intended, faces in their corner, Murrow and Friendly and the rest of supporting CBS affiliates continually run into raised brows and shaking fingers. In deed Murrow’s notorious “good night and good luck” broadcast is ruffling feathers, including those of the powerhouse big wigs with the potential to fire, re-hire, and censor.
Still, Joe (Robert Downey Jr.) and Shirley (Patricia Clarkson) Wershba (who are coincidentally forced to pretend they aren’t married as the result of a constituent of their employment at CBS which prohibits coworkers to marry), fellow journalist Jesse Zousmer (Tate Donovan), and Don Hewitt (Grant Heslov) pull for Murrow and Friendly while McCarthy and radical anti-communist conservatives launch their unending verbal attacks on Murrow’s broadcast editorial.
With even fellow employees trying to take Fred and Edward Murrow down, raving about Murrow’s alleged communist-party-support, still Murrow pushes on. All seems well until Ed brushes up against CBS CEO William Paley (Frank Langella). With a serious admonition from Paley, and yet again another hesitant dismissal of Ed’s proposal, Murrow avidly persists in continuing his Broadcast while Paley rants about his office, upset about Murrow’s politically subversive editorial.
But the fires are only starting. As the brushfire ignites into wildfire, McCarthy and other rightists fight back against Ed and his radical “lefties”. Meanwhile, all of Ed’s friends who were in one way or another formerly affiliated with the socialist movement begin to try to back out of the broadcast in fear of being illegitimately exposed and falsely accused. Still, Ed presses on. Relentlessly, selflessly, courageously Murrow and Friendly head into the darkness without a compass, financial support, and with only the support of those equally ostracized “radicals” standing behind them.
Still, hope seems on the horizon when news of the Senate’s move to investigate McCarthy reaches the CBS newsroom. But just as soon as the sweet taste of victory is near the lips of hard-working editorialists, all early celebration is quickly silenced with the news of supportive journalist Don Hollenbeck’s (Ray Wise) suicide. What once seemed a prosperously subversive broadcast now seems a fragile and failing attempt at being heard. Frantically Friendly and Murrow implore support and continued air time. But the question remains, when the Senate stalemates their McCarthy investigation, will Columbia Studios grant Friendly and Murrow their much needed air time, or will their voices be silenced by the power of conservative officials with networking ties and pockets of cash?
“Good Night and Good Luck” is a powerful and subversive film that exposes the realistic drama and pervasive tension of American society in the midst of the “frenzied 50’s” where the “Red Scare” left American’s terrified to stand alone. “Good Night and Good Luck” successfully attempts to capture the courage and struggle of two brave pioneers, Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly, and their supportive CBS affiliates in their attempts to call into question the formidable and ethically wayward rhetoric of conservative radical Senator Joe McCarthy. With nothing but risks and uncertainty ahead, Friendly and Murrow pushed on relentlessly, despite the interminable amount of obstacles encountered, and the equally ceaseless threats of unemployment, indictment, etc. Daring to step out and be deemed a “Red”, Friendly and Murrow blatantly stand opposed to McCarthy; but not in his political ideologies however, simply his skeptical moral tactics.
As such, George Clooney and David Strathairn are arresting in their powerful performances as Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow respectively. The two are powerhouses and a dynamic duo, a tour de force that recapitulates America into the 1950’s and forces us to relive, from the side of the vulnerable and “anti-heroic”, that manic time in American history. Likewise Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson are solid in their portrayal of the conflicted married couple Joe and Shirley Wershba who are forced, by professional propriety, to hide their marriage during their workday. From casual acquaintances to husband and wife, their friendly banter brings to light the personal effects of the tension of Murrow and Friendly’s avid cause, and its reverberation in a commonplace American household. Through the eyes of Joe and Shirley Wershba we are granted access into the lives of two dedicated “Murrow-ists” and equally worried Americans.
“Good Night and Good Luck” is simply captivating. Its jazz-imbibed score lulls the audience with waves of emotive empathy. The cinematography is equally compelling. The black and white film appropriately captures the novelty of the TV in the 1950’s, and likewise, the insertion of authentic black-and-white footage and the manipulation of light in this black and white film makes it a powerful novelty that haunts as much as it enrages, evokes, moves, and arrests. It is the “Schindler’s List” of the new millennium. It is undeniably powerful .
“Good Night and Good Luck” moves along at a steady pace, gaining speed where necessary and mounting drama in the tumultuous roller-coaster of victory/opposition binaries that are in constant conflict throughout the film. Just as McCarthy stands on the other side of Murrow’s fence, so too is their constant tension between the prospects of victory and defeat. The audience invests their hopes in Friendly and Murrow and is thrown into the throes of their roller-coaster experience as “radically leftist editorialists”. This film is all about pride, conviction, determination, and hope-all in lieu of a cause that many believed in, but that just as many were too afraid to speak of. Friendly and Murrow, specifically the latter, put a voice to that cause. Thanks to Clooney and cast, “Good Night and Good Luck” capture the power and the impact of that voice once again.
“Good Night and Good Luck” was the proud recipient of 6 Oscar nominations: Best achievement in Art Direction (James D. Bissell and Jan Pascale), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Robert Elswitt), Best Achievement in Directing (George Clooney), Best Motion Picture of the Year (Grant Heslov), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (David Strathairn), Best Writing, Screenplay (George Clooney and Grant Heslov). That it fell short of capturing the Oscar for all of its nominated categories is both astounding and beyond comprehension. However, the film did grace 18 critical film association Awards including the European Film Award’s Screen International Award (George Clooney), and the Independent Spirit’s and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards’ Award for Best Cinematography (Robert Elswitt). “Good Night and Good Luck” also received 43 nominations including a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast, and 4 Golden Globes: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay.
DON HEWITT: “Is this the start? Are you taking sides?”
ED MURROW: “It’s just a little poke with a stick. We’ll see what happens”
ED MURROW: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear of one another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine. And remember that we are not descended form fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes for were for the moment, unpopular.”
David Strathairn plays Edward R. Murrow, the politically subversive nighttime broadcast journalist.
George Clooney plays Fred Friendly, Murrow’s right-hand man and other-half in Murrow’s anti-McCarthy cause.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Joe Wershba, one of Murrow’s supportive CBS journalists.
Patricia Clarkson plays Shirley Wershba, Joe’s wife and fellow CBS employee.
Frank Langella plays William Paley, CEO of Columbia Studios.
Jeff Daniels plays Sig Mickelson, bigwig CBS endorser.
Ray Wise plays Don Hollenbeck, the ill-fated journalist.
Grant Heslov plays Don Hewitt, avid Murrow endorser.