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McCarthyism exposed in Clooney’s new film

Observer Scene | Wednesday, January 18, 2006

George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck” catapults the audience back into the 1950s and, despite the presence of many contemporary faces (including George Clooney, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jeff Daniels), is successful in achieving an authentic aura.

Clooney and cinematographer Robert Elswit photographed the entire picture in black and white, which creates a strikingly unique film that is both entertaining and informative. However, while the style and flow of the film make it cinematically exceptional, at times it interferes with the narrative and its comprehensibility.

Instead of presenting the audience with a history of McCarthyism, Clooney immerses in the story and makes it his own. The film mixes vintage television broadcasts from the 1950s with a corresponding storyline of the inner workings of CBS. As the story progresses, it is becomes less and less apparent which shots are contemporary and which are from the vaults.

This artistic blending is made seamless through the excellence of the acting. Clooney and Downey are able to leave behind remnants of their more typical suave/romantic typecasting and fully inhabit the CBS executives they portray. Daniels is a superb contribution to the cast – he and David Strathairn (who plays Edward Murrow) are a crucial element in bridging the gap between the modern and historical film clips.

As a whole, the film is well written, but screenwriters Clooney and Heslov sometimes forget that not all of their audience members are familiar with McCarthyism. Although it is a famous event in American history, those who have little specific knowledge or experience about the original broadcasting and events may be slightly confused at the beginning of the film. Despite this, the film’s focus is clear, and once the audience adjusts to the style of the movie, it is easy to follow. However, this initial confusion presents one major artistic flaw – while any audience member will learn from this film, those who have some previous knowledge on the subject will both enjoy the film more and extract more meaning from it.

The story is very different from a typical Hollywood movie in that it does not have the exciting plot line of many modern films. Instead, it is much more reflective of real life. It has many characters that each have their own individual story. It is a compilation of everyday events in the lives of everyday people that unexpectedly create something extraordinary.

This style is to the story’s advantage. The down-to-earth quality of the characters and television blurbs allow the audience to connect to the story and understand its pertinence to life as an American. The story is so authentic to the 1950s styles, manners of speech, behavior and life that it feels completely non-fictional. It becomes apparent that is it Clooney’s goal to record a story, not to write one.

Like no other movie that is out in theaters, “Good Night and Good Luck” addresses the importance of American heritage. It leaves behind the typical themes of drama to address the issue of the common man and his role in our country. The tagline for the movie states, “We will not walk in fear of one another,” emphasizing the need for Americans to confront issues valiantly at a grassroots level. “Good Night, and Good Luck” inspires change in a country filled with fear and provides a hopeful outlook for the future.