Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kill the Messenger (2014)

Director: Michael Cuesta
Writers:  Peter Landesman, Gary Webb, Nick Schou
Cast:       Jeremy Renner, Robert Patrick, Jena Sims, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta

A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing Cocaine into California. Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb.

The backdoor channel of arming Contra rebels started after the Congress denied the government permission to formally wage a war in Nicaragua during the cold war times. I was aware about this story and Gary Webb after listening to one of Dan Carlin's Common Sense podcast episodes. So I practically knew the entire story upfront. I really don't like Jeremy Renner and think he has such a punchable smug face. So there wasn't much incentive to watch it also because it didn't get an overwhelmingly positive critical reviews. Despite all that I finally took the plunge since it is a genre that I enjoy very much with Michael Mann's 'The Insider' and Pakula's 'All the President's Men' being the high watermark points. It is not a great film by any means but is nevertheless a very good watch with good performance from Renner. The complicity of the mainstream papers like NYT & WP was new information for me and in that regard they very much worked like establishment's mouthpiece like they did when they manufactured the consent for Iraq War through their reportage on imaginary WMDs. The media coverage CIA's shenanigans in Latin America and Central America is used extensively by Noam Chomsky in his book 'Manufacturing Consent'. The difference in this case was that they directly caused enormous harm to American people and as the film points out rather than American soldiers it was the black Americans who were addicted to crack-cocaine who were the victims. The irony of waging a War on Drugs and at the same time encouraging drug trafficking to pursue their interests elsewhere.

The CIA kind of admitted to its doing by releasing a 400 page report in a very cunning fashion during the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal so that it would not get any media attention. Poor Gary Webb, he was found dead in 2004 with two gunshot wounds to his head which was deemed to be a suicide. We are prepared to believe the worst about CIA and US intelligence community after the Snowden affairs. The merit of the film lies more with its documentary value rather than pure cinematic excellence. 

Rating: 3.5/5