Good Night, and Good Luck
“See It Now”, both the name of the show within the show and the sentiment I have of this piece which revisits a time where the Health Service had not realised the dangers of smoking inside a busy pub on a Friday night. Whereas ‘Mad Men’ creates lush colour palettes and moral uncertainty, George Clooney’s second foray into directing (after ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’ which similarly examined the life of a man involved in television) uses monotone black and white effect and a sultry jazz soundtrack to hlighlight the potential ramifications of true journalistic integrity.
This resolve is embodied in Edward Murrow (David Strathairn) who in the 40s and 50s fought Senator McCarthy for his unruly methods in hunting down communists during the height of the Cold War. A wonderful irony is provided in how footage of McCarthy is used to represent him here, illustrating how this still fledgling industry could fight political propaganda as much incite it.
Clooney and his team show a level of comfort with television that’s palpable, allowing the surface level story to occupy the black and white with every subtlety and nuance within an ever larger grey area. With the build up to the broadcast of the most damaging allegations against McCarthy, we see paranoia and politics operate on every level; Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise), a fellow news anchor commits suicide after being attack by a tabloid columnist; Joe and Shirley (Robert Downey Jr and Patricia Clarkson) worry about the potential ramifications of the exposé on their marriage in an office which bans fraternisation; and manager Willam Paley’s (Frank Langella) battle to support the needs of a free press and a palpable democracy in such uncertain times against satisfying the bottom line and keeping sponsors happy.
The scenes between Strathairn and Langella are perhaps the best within the entire piece, with the latter as Paley providing a much more interesting foil, providing the crew with the smoking gun that inevitably leads to their commercial fall from grace.
With editing that only further heightens the sense of immediacy and never cajoles or condescends to the audience, Clooney allows the piece to speak for itself, taking a supporting but almost invisible role within the piece, a testament to both his potential modesty and self-assuredness. Based on the results, he has a long career ahead of him in front of and behind the camera.