George Clooney directs, co-stars in ‘Good Night and Good Luck’

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Paranoia is in the air, as you look over your shoulder to make sure none of your friends or family have a reason to be a suspect. Or at least this is what many Americans felt like during the McCarthy era.

George Clooney directs his second feature length film, merging history with drama in, “Good Night and Good Luck”.

The story is about one CBS reporter, Edward Murrow, who is unafraid to stand up for what he believes in. In a time when people are being dragged into congressional hearings and being accused of being communist while not being able to confront the evidence against them, Murrow is willing to become a target of the communist witch hunt to expose the violation of civil liberties.

Edward Murrow and Fred Friendly decide to air a story about a soldier who is being discharged from the armed services because his father is believed to have ties to Communism. The soldier is not allowed to defend himself at a trial or see the evidence against him. This leads to a conflict with Senator McCarthy over the airwaves and through the print media.

The story may keep the audience intrigued with parallel story lines about the other reporters in the newsroom, like the secret marriage of Joe (Robert Downey Jr.) and Shirley Wershba (Patricia Clarkson) two reporters on the staff. The pressure and fear of being called a communist builds as Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise) experiences when reporter named O’Brian, attacks him viciously for slanting the news and being a communist pinko.

The last storyline is the story of how CBS dealt with the situation and stood up for its reporters.

The film captures the emotion and action of the newsroom. While inside the CBS television news room the camera was constantly moving in and out of focus. It helps to create a feeling of chaos and action in the newsroom.

The gluttony of cigarette smoking shows not only a common habit of the times, it shows a huge amount of pressure and tension on the characters.

Even though Murrow and Friendly make the news report they know they have become targets for McCarthy’s witch-hunt.

The camera work along with black and white film and sound mixing of fuzzyness and static to make the film appear to be old, as though it was filmed the same time period that Murrow was reporting, allows us to feel as though we were taken back to the actual time period.

Clooney decided to use original footage of McArthur to bring a sense of reality, time period and emotion to the film.

Some aspects of the film that could have been executed better would include character development for Joe and Shirley Wershba. While the tension of the couple is interesting it is not really explained why it is there in the first place.

Even with an explanation of what is happening near the end it is still not explained why it was important to the fighting of McCarthyism.

The movie shines a bright spotlight on a powerful message about not being afraid to stand up for your rights. The only way we can defend ourselves is to stand up even if it places us at risk.

The movie is intriguing and brings to life a time, that has long been considered old history. We should also remember, without the knowledge of history we are doomed to repeat it. “Good night and good luck.”

Joseph Cohen can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu.