The Salon blurb: George Clooney’s second directorial project refuses to sacrifice craftsmanship to polemics, even as it kicks the pants of the contemporary media.
An excerpt: (free with a day pass)
George Clooney’s second picture as a director, “Good Night, and Good Luck,” is a modestly scaled movie, one that cost only around $8 million to make. But there’s something deeply luxurious about the mere idea of making, in 2005, a movie about Edward R. Murrow and Joe McCarthy.
This is a picture about a turning point in the media that also helped force a turning point in history, and a movie that asserts, by example, that contemporary news media have let us down. But any old schmo with a point of view can make a polemic. What’s exceptional about “Good Night, and Good Luck” — which opens the New York Film Festival this Friday — is that it doesn’t sacrifice craftsmanship and elegance at the altar of its strong convictions. This is serious grown-up entertainment with a sense of history and a sense of style, the kind of picture almost no one knows how to — or, perhaps more accurately, can find the means to — make anymore. It makes you wonder why we so often settle for sackcloth filmmaking — some of it outrageously expensive — when we could have bespoke instead.
“Good Night, and Good Luck,” co-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov (who also served as producer and has a small role in the picture), focuses on the head-to-head battle that took place between the already-legendary journalist Murrow (David Strathairn) and McCarthy in the early days of broadcast journalism, days in which newsmen like Murrow and producers Fred Friendly (played here by Clooney) and Joe Wershba (Robert Downey Jr.) were just discovering the vast possibilities, as well as the potential abuses, of television news. Clooney and Heslov wrote the picture around words written and spoken by Murrow, taken largely from his “See It Now” broadcasts. “See It Now,” which aired on CBS for six years beginning in 1951, was the first newsmagazine show, and it was the forum Murrow used — after a great deal of deliberation with Friendly and the other members of the CBS news team — to air the first overt criticism of McCarthy’s anti-communist smear campaigns and scare tactics, yanking the curtain back on their obvious unconstitutionality. …
Clooney clearly has strong feelings for the material he’s working with here, partly because his father worked for years as a news anchor. (Clooney himself almost pursued broadcast journalism as a career.) And the picture’s ideology is right upfront, dovetailing with the director’s liberal political views, which he’s never been afraid to put on the table. The picture is partly an ode to the early days of broadcast journalism and partly a call to arms, a reminder of the standards that contemporary media (of all sorts) ought to be upholding. But what’s remarkable about “Good Night, and Good Luck” is the way Clooney, Heslov and the actors make those ideas work so well dramatically.