In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy was one of the main causes of wide spread panic concerning Communism in America, by making bold claims that Soviet spies already breached the nation’s borders. Using tactics of fear and humiliation, McCarthy attempted to root out any person who he suspected was a Communist or anyone who stood against him. The accusations that would cause him to charge a person as a Communist could be so small as being subscribed to a particular news magazine or attending a meeting that may have had a Socialist agenda.
Edward Murrow, a CBS news broadcaster, and his producer, Fred Friendly, decided to take an overt stand against McCarthy and his tactics, despite the risk of being charged with Communist subversion themselves. This risky move and the consequences that were involved sets the stage of George Clooney’s 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck.
Going into this movie without any prior knowledge of the Cold War and McCarthyism may make this movie a little difficult to follow at first. This is not a film that holds your hand and gracefully guides you through the narrative, revealing everything clearly without any thought. This is a movie that expects the viewer to be intelligent and do a little research if necessary. It’s thought provoking and challenging, which is one of the main reasons why this movie is so fantastic.
The black and white look of the film is crucial as it really catapults the viewer into this past time period. The interesting thing is that the movie was filmed on color film stock but a grayscale set was used to film on. The color was then changed to black and white in post production. One can not miss the extraordinary lighting work done on this film. Cinematographer, Robert Elswit, uses the lighting not only to give the film a noirish look in some scenes, but also to create a feeling of documentary, which only adds to the realism of the film.
Above all, that is why I love the film so much. It’s so real. The set design looks exactly like the headquarters of CBS would look like from the board rooms to the studios. The performances are all above average. David Strathairn was nominated for the Academy Award for best actor and rightfully so. The use of actual news footage of McCarthy only helped make the viewing experience more believable. Along with the best actor nomination, Good Night, and Good Luck was nominated for 5 other Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
For any American history buff, politician, or journalist, this film is a must see. It provides lessons on how and how not to handle an internal crisis and the relationship between politics and the media. There is also a theme concerning the deterioration of content on television. Murrow warns that if the educational and intellectual content is taken off the air, then TV becomes evil in a way. If Murrow could see shows like Jersey Shore and Keeping up with the Kardashians, he would probably destroy his own television. That’s not to say he was against entertainment. He was against brain rotting behavior.
This film looks, sounds, and plainly is phenomenal. It’s short run time of only over an hour and a half makes it so that the viewer won’t lose interest. It’s quick paced so it demands attention. If you love history, the media, or excellent cinematography then this is the film for you. If you’re just looking for entertainment without any intellectual gain, then you will probably want to stay away from this one.