Saturday night we went to see "Good Night, And Good Luck," the Oscar-nominated film about Edward R. Murrow's on-air challenges of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the early 1950s. We both enjoyed it quite a bit - there were a couple of Murrow monologues (which I can only imagine were taken verbatim from CBS transcripts) during which I nearly teared up - though I can't help but wonder if part of the movie's success has to do more with the timely nature of its message than the movie itself.
It's a very well-done movie, don't get me wrong - it's just that it's only a snapshot. The film runs barely an hour and a half (which seems incredibly short, especially by today's standards), and has essentially no character development. Even Murrow (brilliantly understated by David Strathairn) is more of an archetype than a real person with real depth. (Although I'm no Murrow expert, maybe he was an archetype?)
The film seems to rely upon the audience's general understanding of the McCarthy era to fill in the gaps in the story, and in that sense feels more like one chapter taken out of a biopic about Murrow than it does a stand-alone piece. For me, the McCarthy hearings are almost a mythical period in this country's history, so I'd be curious what someone who either lived through them or at least knows more about them thinks of the film. McCarthy is practically an actor in the film, as footage of him is woven in, and as the entire movie is done in black and white it is seamless. Director, co-writer and co-star George Clooney has clearly proved himself to be so much more than the hunky guy who played a doctor on TV.
Having said all of this, it's an important film - especially now - and I'm glad to see it getting all this recognition. We couldn't help but think (aloud) as we left the theatre, "Where is today's Murrow? We sure could use one right about now..."
As an aside, my favorite bit of script came very early on, when a CBS executive is telling Murrow that if he goes after McCarthy, the sponsors of his show will likely pull out. Murrow says he'll split the cost of the ad buy with his producer, Fred Friendly (Clooney), who isn't there to protest.
Murrow: "He just won't be able to buy Christmas presents for his kids this year."
CBS Exec: "He's Jewish."
Murrow: "Well, don't tell him that. He loves Christmas."