Director: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney and Grant Heslov
Good Night, and Good Luck is George Clooney’s second film as director, after 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. An intimate retelling of CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow’s televised clash with senator Joseph McCarthy, at the height of the Red Scare.
Good Night, and Good Luck is that rare period film that feels authentic down to its texture. From the grey flicker of a tube, to the smoggy chatter of a typing pool, this is a closely-observed 1950’s Americana.
Director George Clooney blends extended sequences of raw newsreel into the scripted action, including footage from Annie Lee Moss’ deposition, and Joseph McCarthy’s infamous rebuttal to E.R. Murrow. It is a testament to the film’s authentic texture, that these segments never jar.
Good Night, and Good Luck is an ensemble film, but I should note, not of the indulgent sort.
It is couched in memorable, unobtrusive performances, none of which overpower the engaging story. At its core, this is an unembellished, unflashy retelling of events, one that feels very much in keeping with Murrow’s famously sober style of broadcasting.
Frank Langella plays chief executive of CBS, William S. Paley; a formidable performance reminiscent of Christopher Plumber’s turn as Mike Wallace in The Insider (both roles about the discord between corporate and editorial journalism). However, it is character actor Ray Wise who steals the show here, proving in an understated fashion, that he’s just as consummate out-of-genre, than he is in it. Clooney, of course, is perfectly at home in the house he built.
Good Night, and Good Luck has something of that Pakula-Lumet quality — we feel like flies on the wall in a smoky, lively, lived-in world. Another obvious touchstone would be Robert Redford’s Quiz Show; an equally effective expose, centring on the world of commercial broadcast television during the 1950’s. And just like Clooney’s film, Quiz Show was also a passion project helmed by an established actor turned director.
Slick, but carefully restrained filmmaking.