Film Review: Good Night, and Good Luck
By Nina Karimi
“Good Night, and Good Luck” is not your typical Hollywood film full of conventional action, cliff hangers, and romance. It is however a masterpiece of its time, about an era that many Americans try to forget. George Clooney, an esteemed American Actor and director of this film tried to capture a period of time known as the McCarthy Era where the “red scare” or fear of communism allowed the Senator from Wisconsin to try and convict suspected traitors. Its historical accuracy with real footage, quotations, and individuals, along with the distinct characteristics of Edward R. Murrow by actor David Strathairn are remarkably accurate. The film takes place virtually entirely in the CBS newsroom and is during the early days of television broadcasting in the 1950s. Edward R. Murrow was and always will be a celebrated broadcasting journalist and in this film we see he and his dedicated staff opposing Joseph McCarthy’s harsh methods. We were clearly reminded both subtly and bluntly throughout the film that doing such things during this time was very dangerous with the loss of advertisers, threats from military colonels, O’Brian newspaper attacks, and Don Hollenbeck’s possible suicide. Even the seemingly irrelevant fact that Shirley and Joe Wirshba feared having their secret marriage discovered highlighted the feelings America was having at the time. When the CBS program vocalized its view on McCarthy as shown with Murrow’s words of “but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the Junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly,” the fire was started. Through actual footage of McCarthy responding to Murrow’s claims, we see just the methods the Senator used with falsely accusing and labeling any criticizer as a communist or a communist sympathizer. It was a great device to begin and end the film with a speech Murrow gave in 1958 where he explains that our flaw is to be complacent with life and never question or learn. “Good Night, and Good Luck” although created in the modern day, with the beauty of crisp and resolute black and white filming, we see the timeless message of the human capacity for fear.
During a time where film goers merely watch with their hearts and emotions and not their brains, the historical accuracy of a film is very important. The average person will not search up what the McCarthy era entailed, nor will they research if “Good Night, and Good Luck” accurately represented its real life characters. This film however did a fine job in properly representing the main issues. As far as character representation and story lines follow, George Clooney and fellow screen writer Grant Heslov did a marvelous job. With the main role of Edward R. Murrow for example, if one were to watch a broadcasting of Murrow himself, it can be easily seen how accurate David Strathairn acted even down to the slight eyebrow lifts so well-known of the famous broadcaster. With the verity of real life persons like Fred Friendly (co-producer of See It Now), William Paley (chief executive of CBS), Don Hollenbeck (colleague of Murrow) and Joseph and Shirley Wershba (secret CBS marriage) we see the films historical truth. Hollenbeck was indeed assailed by communist allegations from Jack O’Brian, a columnist that favored McCarthy as highlighted throughout the movie. Also, the marriage secrecy and subplot story line of the Wershba’ is true to fact. The decision to use real archival footage of McCarthy himself allowed the audience to see him in a befitting light that did him and his actions justice. The questioning of Annie Lee Moss, a Pentagon communication worker, accused of being a communist allowed the viewers a very accurate glimpse of what happened during a McCarthy trial as they also used the method of real footage. Another interesting approach was to use many of Edward R. Murrow’s exact words at speeches and during his...
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