Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Good Night and Good Luck


I’ll have to start out by admitting to a little inconsistency. Elsewhere in these reviews I have railed against movies that play fast and loose with the facts (Cinderella Man springs to mind). I also have a distaste for movies that unnecessarily hype up the action in what is essentially a cerebral story. Now here is a movie that is rigorous and thoughtful and has no superfluous car chases or even people running down hallways to deliver dire news … and I found it just a trifle boring.

Part of it is that I am very familiar with the material, it has been covered many times in every medium. It is also very modest in its goals—again, not a bad thing in itself—but it was amazingly short, and I kept feeling it might have covered more ground. I learned that it was originally written to be a live performance on CBS, and perhaps they should have expanded it just a trifle for a theatrical release.

But enough of picking on it. It was very well-staged and well-acted, particularly by David Strathairn, who was unlucky enough to turn in what may be his masterpiece in the year of Capote. I think the most valuable thing about it wasn’t so much the depiction of how that monster McCarthy was brought to his knees as in recalling for me how intimate television used to be, before flashy computer graphics, shakycams, microsecond cutting and editing, and the general helter-skelter pacing the public now seems to demand. Ed Murrow, speaking at the beginning and end of this film about how awful TV was becoming, how it was squandering its potential, could never have envisioned the depressing depths to which public taste and superfluous technology could actually push it. McLuhan called TV a “hot” medium, meaning that it required viewer participation to fill in between the raster-scan lines. Events have proven him totally wrong, I believe, now that we have perfect color, computer editing, tiny mobile cameras, and high definition coming over the horizon. Now we sit, zombified, while the meaningless or actually mind-rotting content is poured into our eyes with no connection at all to our brains.