June 03, 2008

Movie Review: Good Night, and Good Luck

I heard about McCarthyism when I was in high school or was it middle school? For me, it's one of those events you hear about but can never truly understand. This movie brought me just a little closer to understanding.

It takes place right in the middle of the "witch hunts" McCarthy instigated back in the 1950s. Various government employees, actors, and other people on the fringe were accused of being part Communists or Communist sympathizers. Perhaps this person was a Russian spy? They do seem suspicious. I saw them reading leftist newspaper articles the other day. Her brother used to be involved with an organization that is now funding the Russians, etc. McCarthy claimed he had a whole list of people that were suspicious characters. And he had evidence! However, it was in a sealed envelope with nothing written on it, and no one had actually seen the contents that could attest to them. The whole thing was suspicion and hearsay. But, it was effective! People were fired from their jobs, shunned from society, and whispered about in corridors. Imagine the shame.

So in this movie, a CBS news correspondent, Edward R. Murrow, decided to challenge McCarthy. He didn't directly claim that McCarthy was lying. Only that he wanted to see what was in all of these evidence reports. After a tug of war for the hearts of the American people, McCarthy was impeached. This may or may not have been a direct result of the Murrow shows, but it was clear the public tide was turning. In this movie, they show how the events surrounding this showdown might have played out on the inside. There are many meetings and threats. There is much brow-wiping and collar twisting. And it makes for a very riveting film.


We see how this whole thing could have blown up in Murrow's face. We see what a risk he took and how the executive producers of the station might have treated him for taking that risk. We see fear and bravery.

This was a 2005 Oscar nominee in 6 categories, none of which it won. But it is a very interesting piece of work. What's amazing is that this event happened on the heels of the Holocaust and Nuremberg trials. The United States had just spent a lot of time pointing fingers at other countries that had let fear and speculation run the day. Many people got sent to concentration camps based on this same type of rumors and hearsay as displayed in this film.

This film makes for riveting entertainment, but don't try to watch it when you are in the mood for something light. This is a fairly clean picture, rated PG. It could be useful in an educational setting.

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