Home / Movie Review: The Courage of Good Night and Good Luck

Movie Review: The Courage of Good Night and Good Luck

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Good Night, and Good Luck is a dramatized, documentary type of account of the controversial struggle between esteemed CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and Senator Joseph McCarthy in the turbulent 1950s.

The relevance today of the events depicted in this film is all too evident in the corporate media controlled environment in which certain constituents exploit an intensifying paranoia concerning terrorism.

The historic significance of the film is clearly in its depiction of McCarthy targeting Murrow and his ability to disprove the most damning allegations which resulted in the Senate investigating McCarthy, ending the witch-hunts.

The film is so accurate that events actually unfold as they did in real life and George Clooney relies on newsreel footage of McCarthy, rather than hiring an actor. This technique, along with its black-and-white look, gives the film a strong documentary feel, in a quietly intense understated tone.

Murrow’s statement, “We have a built in allergy to unpleasant information, and our media reflects that,” is eerily prophetic today. Just as then, the goal of TV news has ceased to be about providing information, but more about selling sound bytes without enlightening anyone of the whole (or even partial) truth or circumstances.

The supporting cast with George Clooney as Fred Friendly, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson as the husband-and-wife team of Joe and Shirley Wershba, Frank Langella as chair and CBS founder William Paley, and Ray Wise, as Don Hollenbeck, despite their potency as individual actors, prove an indelible ensemble.

While films usually either appeal to the cerebral or sentimental, Good Night, and Good Luck is a fascinatingly unusual assemblage of docu-drama, suspense and morality that is not only an homage to the greatest newsman that ever lived, but whose subject is every bit as relevant today as it was in the 1950s, perhaps more so.

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  • Bliffle

    I lived thru the McCarthy era so I enjoyed the movie greatly. People may be shocked at how much we all smoked cigarettes during that time, but it’s true. We were puffing away like mad. Except for MY parents who were considered peculiar.

    McCarthy was considered a nut by most people, but we all suspected there were commies in some government jobs, but it didn’t seem like Tail Gunner Joe was interested in much more than self-promotion. Mostly, I guess, we figured he’d burn himself out, and we were relieved when Ike finally squelched him. Lately, as I understand, WFB and some others on the right are trying to rehabilitate Joe, but that’s really dumb: Joe doesn’t have any worthwhile credentials, he was just a howling demagogue.

    Murrow was a radio hero and became a TV fixture. We all watched his shows with interest, even the fluff jobs. They were entertaining. We knew that the fluff was to feed the mammon of commerce, but it was OK. He was a Great Man, which is a lot different from a mere celebrity. He saw his duty and he did it.

  • Baronius

    Slate.com had a great article about how Clooney airbrushed history. Murrow in reality waited until McCarthy was down before he picked a fight.