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.