Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

Director: George Clooney
Writers:  George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Cast:       David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr.

Film is an historical drama portraying the conflict between veteran radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow and US senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, especially relating to the anti-communist Senator's actions with the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations. It focuses on the theme of media responsibility and also addresses what occurs when the media offer a voice of dissent against Government policy. 

2005 was a good time for the film to get released because the media in US, now fully corporatised, didn't do his job post 9-11 as terrorist scare was used to push through all sorts of questionable legislations like 'Patriot Act' and conduct some dubious wars. Red Scare was something similar that happened in US after the second world war, whipped up by the likes of J. Edgar Hoover & Senator McCarthy. The communist bogey was used to infringe upon civil rights and liberties, and the activities that they did on its name look totally ridiculous when looked back upon. But you have to be mindful of the cold war context and the nuclear threat to realize how they got support/silent approval to do so. The film will also be very relatable to us Indians, who are going through a similar state of affairs under a right-wing government. Accusations of being commie naxals/Maoists and an order to go to Pakistan is something that is hurled at dissenting voices these days in Modi's India. 

The film is in black and white and features an excellent central performance from David Strathairn capturing subtle mannerisms. The title of the film comes from Murrow's signature parting line in his show. Film uses archive footage of McCarthy and so he plays himself in it. I has recently read a NYT piece which cited the questionable practice of Ed Murrow in which he uses his show to promote a cigarette brand by having a smoke. That does look shocking when looked from a modern context, especially as we don't see people smoking on TV in a non-entertainment program these days. But I have to say that, I did see David Lynch on Charlie Rose show, in the 90s, having a smoke and looking cool while doing that. George Clooney manages to convey a sense of somberness throughout the film and it works as a good docu-drama. But, I think, I would have preferred to see it as a straight-up documentary. At the end of it, you do go: 'Is that it?'. Still it is quaint to see them, during the early days of TV journalism, worry about the influence of corporate side influencing journalism, while these days we are taking it as a given and always look at who owns the outlet and assume some bias.

PS: If you hear about McCarthyism, as I have been these days with increasing frequency, then it refers to accusation of treason or subversion without proper regard for evidence.

Rating: 3.5/5