A beautifully crafted homage to an earlier era of broadcast journalism, George Clooney’s second film as a director is an intelligent and prescient depiction of CBS newsman Ed Murrow and his battle with Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.
The narrative follows Murrow (brilliantly realised by David Strathairn) as he and his producer Fred Friendly (Clooney) try to convince a reticent CBS that an investigation of McCarthy and his questionable tactics is both valid and necessary. Despite pressure from sponsors and the network boss, William Paley (Frank Langella), Murrow and his team manage to engage McCarthy into a debate that exposes the shameful scare tactics of the senator from Wisconsin and the climate of fear his communist witch hunts had created.
Although it unashamedly romanticises Murrow and the journalistic values he represented Clooney’s film (co-written with Grant Heslov) also takes a wry attitude to the period. Cigarette ads and an comically cautious interview with Liberace imply that some things have changed for the better. Aside from the underlying political themes, the film is technically first rate: the black and white photography and seamless editing between real footage of the time (McCarthy effectively plays himself via the magic of archived film) are all highly impressive. The acting (especially Strathairn) is uniformly good and although the running time is little over 90 minutes, the issues explored will run in your head for a lot longer. (Redbus, PG)