At the present times, when the film and film-making in general has undergone such a drastic change that more often than not, a major portion of the viewers is accustomed to a film with either action, a lot of humor, exceptional chills, over-the-top stories, and so on and so forth. The very root of film-making seems to have been forgotten. The film, we must remember, is also an agent of communication. It puts forward a message. Good Night, and Good Luck is such a film.
As we hear David Strathairn's Edward R. Murrow speak, we are reminded of the positive points of what we call television. He asks the public not to underestimate or overlook the fact that television has a potential to inform and educate. Good Night, and Good Luck is basically a political drama, playing out an event that took place in the early 1950's in the Columbia Broadcasting System. The war of words between CBS' broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Republican U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. It is more of a docu-drama with actual footages and dialogue from the happenings.
Directed by George Clooney, who also stars in the film, Good Night, and Good Luck is completely in black and white. It is exceptionally stylized. The repeated shots of Strathairn holding his cigarette, the light reflecting off his well-oiled hair, and his chiseled expressionless face; the glare he gives the viewers at the end of each broadcast, is the very point of the film. There is no added material here, no extra ingredients to spice up the events and modernize it, no effort to make it more appealing except for giving it the actual look and feel of the 50's. Almost the entire film is inside the CBS newsroom, or its adjacent offices. The music that occasionally plays in the background is more often than not a part of the diagesis, perhaps a jazz recording, or a broadcast in an adjacent room.
Then there is Edward Strathairn's performance. Flawless. His acting, more than anything else, takes us into understanding and realizing the consequences of the events that are taking place. The calm yet ruthless nature of him, the clarity with which he speaks in the broadcasts, is perfect. The supporting cast is also top notch with the likes of Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson. Frank Langella is exceptionally brilliant in the sequence in his office with Clooney and Strathairn.
At ninety minutes, the acting and the stylization make the film a visual treat. It is however suggested that one be informed of the events that the film portrays beforehand. It is the mere representation of an event; without any explanation, any commentary, any justification whatsoever. The film never tries to be something it cannot. It is not meant to be an entertaining action-packed film. It's action lies in the play of dialogue between characters and the facts that the conversations eventually reveal. It is man against man. One trying to bring out the truth about the other. It is a debate. It is a fiery battle of words between two men. It is about one man who dared to tell the truth, and went to all ends to bring it out into the open. Good Night, and Good Luck is a detailed and accurate account of the feud between broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.