Saturday, August 31, 2013

Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

With forms of government such as fascism, totalitarianism, anarchism, and Bieber-ism (that last one, of course, isn’t real, but given his number of followers, you would think it is), I can’t quite call communism the worst form of government ever. Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t support it, what with its shady politics, lackadaisical economy, and lack of free speech. Its idea of equality for all is admirable, but it doesn’t work. Human nature would never allow it. Some possess a level of superiority that ranges from low to high. Others are cankerous racists. Communism is a method of manipulation. The government, while claiming to be about peace and parity, possesses a large amount of power and the power can, and has, been abused. Just read Animal Farm and you’ll see how it works.

Nevertheless, communism, while not extinct, had gone by the wayside, in terms of an igniter for relevant discussion. I’m sure there are people from the New Age who don’t see communism as a big deal; as just some failed form of government created by some “Santa Claus-looking dude.” I couldn’t exactly blame them for thinking that, seeing how we live in a free, capitalist nation. While there are certainly some remaining communist nations, we are not one of them. America, F*** Yeah!

But during the late 40s up until 1989, there was a huge communism uproar. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were at each other throats, the Vietnam War began, and an intense heaping of paranoia was felt via the Cold War. Hell, even when the fall of Berlin Wall occurred, David Hasselhoff sung at this magnificent event. It was very dark times. Anyway, back to the Cold War paranoia. When you hear this phrase, you most likely think of one man: Joseph McCarthy, the focal point for George Clooney’s 2005 directorial work, Good Night and Good Luck.

McCarthy, for the uninformed, was a senator who believed that Communists had infiltrated the government. Because of his absurd and invalid theory, he began an extreme process of redbaiting, accusing many people of being a Communist. The film isn’t a biopic of his life and beliefs, as I may’ve led you to believe. The film’s protagonist is, rather, Edward R. Murrow, a CBS television news anchor, angered by McCarthy’s actions. In a time where news reporters did merely news reporting, Murrow took to television and cut right to the point: McCarthy was wrong. Clearly, without him, we would never have the other biased, overly opinionated properties that preside our country today (FOX News, MSNBC, might as well throw in Perez Hilton’s blog).

For a film about such a groundbreaking, influential, non-conformist paired up with such uneasy subject matter, it is not a grand diatribe of McCarthyism that one would expect. The film is not a brazen, subversive piece of work. Its tone is blunt, but casual. It doesn’t even rely heavily of music. But why would you, seeing how the smoothly scathing dialogue is music to my ears? I’m sure some might oppose to its autopilot, dialogue-oriented structure of the film, but I appreciated it. The film is about thought, not action. It keeps the intelligence, but spares the emotion. This works, because it is a subtle film.

George Clooney, who also co-wrote the film, and Robert Downey, Jr. have roles in the film as CBS employees. While the film doesn’t emphasize their characters, they do deliver good performances. The standout, by far, however, is David Straithairn as Edward Murrow. He portrays Murrow with a charm that is both devilishly forthright and sincerely acerbic.

Also, on a nostalgic level, this film soars. The filmmakers do an excellent job in portraying the 1950s. They physically immerse themselves into the time period in more of a total and passionate way than most movies I’ve seen. The gorgeous black and white cinematography, the sporadic yet excellent use of music, and even the scrolling caption in the beginning, which gives the audience the necessary historical background, brings the viewer into the time.

I must, now, bring up the aspect of the film that was highly controversial in my film class: the ending. I won’t reveal the actual ending, but I will say that many of my colleagues were left confused and unsatisfied. I am mixed on the ending, but do have a final verdict. See, on the one hand, their critiques of the ending are somewhat warranted. It doesn’t really end. It just stops. And it does this at such an awkward part of the film that it left me asking, “That was it?” I was befuddled, too.

However, I’d rather be on the side of defending it, because on the other hand, the film is about a non-conformist, so logically, the film should conclude in a non-conformist fashion. One critique I heard of it was something along the lines of, “Movies are supposed to actually provide an ending.” (not the exact quote. I just paraphrased it). My rebuttal is that that is the conformist route. That’s what would’ve been expected. As opposed to offering us a clear-cut ending, it allows our knowledge of history to be activated and allows history to play out without the film laying it out for the audience. It swings for the fences, just like Murrow himself, but in a subtle form.

Subtlety is the glue that holds this film together. While it doesn’t allow the film to push itself into anything other than merely good territory, this still means it’s a good film. Seeing how I commended the film on what it tried to achieve, this is a compliment.

RATING: Three stars out of four

No comments:

Post a Comment