27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Good Night and Good Luck [DVD] (DVD)
This film is a salutary lesson in the fact that the USA goes through regular fits of total barminess, such as the one currently being endured under the present theocracy. In the early 1950s, Wisconsin, a state famous for two reasons only, dairy products and the Green Bay Packers, acquired a dubious third, a junior Senator called Joseph McCarthy, who sought to make a name for himself by finding Reds under nearly every bed. It was an era when people could lose jobs because they were risks to national security, based on evidence they weren't allowed to see and when the media were relatively subdued for fear of being labelled as "unpatriotic" or even "treasonous". Sound familiar?
The story is of the confrontation between McCarthy and the distinguished CBS newsman Ed Murrow, famous for his broadcasts from London during the Blitz ("Goodnight, and good luck" was his London sign-off - after all, nobody knew whether there was a Luftwaffe bomb with your name on it - which he kept). On his CBS news show, Murrow calmly and methodically exposed McCarthy for the humbug that he was, and when McCarthy tried to smear him, equally calmly and methodically took him apart. It was the end of the road for McCarthyism (although the whole travesty of un-American activities, blacklisted Hollywood writers, etc., was to continue for some years).
The film is in black and white and features director George Clooney in a secondary role. Murrow is played by David Strathairn, who looks passably like Murrow, and he does a splendid job as the determined journalist. No actor plays McCarthy, he being played by himself, on old TV recordings. Another good role is CBS's long-suffering boss, forever on the verge of becoming a nervous wreck because of the fear of Murrow's crusading scaring away the sponsors. In the end, he tells Murrow that his type of reporting is no longer required and changes the nature of his show.
Which brings us to the beginning and the end of the film. The story is bookended by a speech that Murrow gave to a radio and TV association meeting, which was a litany of complaint of how television, a powerful force for enlightenment, was becoming a trivial medium, lacking serious meaning and squandering its potential. It wasn't popular, but how right it was...
All in all, a short film (less than 1½ hours) effectively executed and well worth seeing. The atmosphere and feel of the time (including endless cigarettes!) are beautifully captured.