George Clooney is back behind the camera after his moderately successful jaunt as director of Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. This time he directs a more serious work in Good Night, And Good Luck, an account ofthe downfall of the Cold War anti-Communist crusader, American senator Joseph McCarthy, as seen from the perspective of the journalists that helped bring him down.
McCarthy’s fanatical pursuit of anyone with even the slimmest of connections to the Communist Party shattered careers and destroyed families and communities. More than 50 years on, the infamous McCarthy hearings remain the dominant symbol of the arch-paranoia of Cold War America.
Enter Edward R. Murrow, a broadcast journalist at CBS who suspected McCarthy of confusing investigation with persecution, and of relying on hearsay and accusation rather than solid evidence.
Murrow (David Strathairn) was something of a legend in those early days of current affairs television. It was 1953 when he and producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and their team of young eager journalists turned their sights on McCarthy. Facing plenty of resistance from the CBS execs, the journalists investigated why a young lieutenant -“ Milo Radulovich -“ was kicked out of the Air Force for being a security risk. (It’s easy to draw plenty of parallels between the McCarthy era and today’s Islam-phobic war on terror.)
What they find ultimately leads the US Senate to close down McCarthy, but not before more lives are destroyed.
There’s plenty of talk of an Oscar nomination for David Strathairn’s iron-jawed portrayal of Murrow. Clooney finishes the film in a lush black and white. You forget how beautiful the absence of colour can be. This helps Good Night, And Good Luck move seamlessly between the drama and the film’s extensive use of archival footage from both the McCarthy hearings and Murrow’s broadcasts.
While it’s fascinating to sit in on the witch hunts, we see only McCarthy’s public persona, and come to understand nothing about his fanaticism. Ultimately, this renders the film slightly on the clinical side despite great performances from a strong supporting cast (particularly Robert Downey Jr and Patricia Clarkson as staffers Joe and Shirley Wershba) and an exquisite jazz soundtrack from singer Dianne Reeves.
DON’T MISS Queer Screen retrospective night dishes up two great coming of age films. Take your pick between The Incredibly True Adventures Of Two Girls In Love at 8:30pm or Get Real at 9pm on Wednesday 14 December at the Verona Cinema. Tickets from MCA Ticketing 1300 306 776 and www.queerscreen.com.au.
NEXT WEEK: HOLIDAY FILM GUIDE What’s hot, what’s not.