Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA/United Kingdom/France/Japan, 2005. Warner Independent Pictures, 2929 Productions, , Davis Films, Redbus Pictures, Tohokushinsha Film Corporation, Section Eight. Screenplay by George Clooney, Grant Heslov. Cinematography by Robert Elswit. Produced by Grant Heslov. Music by Jim Papoulis. Production Design by James D. Bissell. Costume Design by Louise Frogley. Film Editing by Stephen Mirrione. Academy Awards 2005. American Film Institute 2005. Golden Globe Awards 2005. Independent Spirit Awards 2005.
The now-forgotten, televised showdown between reporter Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and radically conservative senator Joseph McCarthy, who was making headlines for his Communist witch hunt in the early 1950s, makes up the story of this excellent docudrama. Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney, who also co-wrote and directed) were two of the very few who decided not to give into the fear that was taking over the entire news and entertainment industry, attacking McCarthy head-on and exposing the rhetoric that covered much of his flimsy argumentation. Clooney captures it all beautifully in this precise, slow-moving but deeply fascinating film that benefits from all the clinical detail it possesses. Also featuring performances by Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson and Jeff Daniels, the film’s most controversial performance comes from the stock footage of McCarthy himself, whom test audiences felt was “overacting”. This one won’t be for everyone’s taste, but given the political climate in which it was released it is definitely a moral tale that needs to be told, and Strathairn is astoundingly good in the lead.