“Good Night, and Good Luck”: Finding Entertainment in History
By Julie Wilson
November 29, 2016
It is hard not to compare a film to one seen previously, but sometimes, after seeing a great one, nothing else compares. “Good Night, and Good Luck,” written and directed by George Clooney in 2005, falls into the latter category. “Good Night, and Good Luck” tells the 1950s story of Edward R. Murrow, a radio and television broadcaster, who exposed the scaremongering tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his witch-hunt pursuits of communist supporters in the United States.
Presented in black and white, it has a contemplative feel, mixing footage from the actual events with quality acting by David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr. and Frank Langella among others.
Murrow (played by Strathairn), Fred Friendly (Clooney) and other CBS staff members make the choice to move beyond neutral journalism to bring a story that challenges the actions of a junior senator. Clooney and Strathairn show the emotion and struggle that comes from choosing sides, wondering if they have chosen the right side and facing the potential repercussions of their decisions. They truthfully portray the responsibility of journalists to investigate and expose the realities of the world we live in, while at the same time staying true to the obligation of honest reporting.
“Good Night, and Good Luck” does have some redeeming qualities. Jazz singer, Dianne Reeves transitions scenes with music that expounds on and foreshadows scenes before and after. The actors carry themselves with the dignity of a 1950s studio and the comradery of co-workers who have forged deep friendships.
However, the lighting is distracting and the actual footage that is interwoven is sometimes hard to follow. It accurately pictures the process that broadcast journalists follow to create and present a story, but it whiplashed this viewer between slow and hard-to-understand to the fast pace of the newsroom producing what-did-I-miss feelings.
While a history buff or a journalist could easily get wrapped up in the challenges of breaking a hard but necessary story, the typical viewer just might be found dozing off, or looking a little bewildered. However, it does show the cyclical tendency of human life and the lack of learning from history as one looks to the future and the tendency of today’s people, government agencies, and journalists to look with suspicion at anyone who believes differently than them.
What Murrow stated 60 years ago could still be said today, “We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. We proclaim ourselves as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. … He [McCarthy] didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Good night, and good luck.”