Based on the real-life 1950s conflict between the principled CBS television broadcaster Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and Senator Joseph McCarthy, the story documents the impact of McCarthy's discredited and underhand methods of hounding communists and sympathisers, whether real or imagined. With a desire to report the facts and enlighten the public, Murrow and his small team of journalists, including Fred Friendly (George Clooney) defy corporate and sponsorship pressures to unveil the undemocratic nature of the Senate committee's activities.
 

1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 2 Dec 2016 - 11:12 AM
5
An exceptional film with a terrific cast.

George Clooney directs, co-writes and co-stars in his second feature, Good Night and Good Luck – a tribute to the late CBS newscaster, Edward R. Murrow and his very public battles with Senator McCarthy. Named after Murrow's nightly sign off, at the end of his current affairs show.

Shot in Black and White, Good Night and Good Luck is set in 1953 in the bustling CBS TV newsroom, of the popular current affairs show, See It Now. The show's anchor, Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and producer, Fred Friendly (George Clooney) are assisted by a team of journalists including Don Hewitt (co'writer, Grant Heslov) and Joe Wershba (Robert Downey Junior). As they search for content, they pick up the story of a sacked US Air Force Reservist, Lieutenant Milo Radulovich. He had been booted out of the airforce, accused of being a security risk, without evidence or a trial, because he had refused to denounce his sister and father.

At the time, broadcast journalism was still in its infancy and the fear of Communism was fierce, mostly fuelled by American, Senator Joseph McCarthy. During McCarthy's infamous witch-hunts, he obsessively pursued anybody he thought had ties to communism. His accusations were arbitrary and created a climate of fear. Many lost their jobs and were forced to appear before the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was designed to uncover the red in all levels of public life. See It Now broadcasts the story, despite the threat of sponsorship withdrawal and reprisals, questioning the lies and methods of McCarthy. When the Senator responds, calling Murrow a Communist, the feud goes up a notch, but the CBS crew do not back down, unafraid to be labelled, "un-American".

George Clooney is a subtle, clever director and this is an exceptional film. With a terrific script and ensemble cast, it's a captivating insight into the early days of broadcast journalism. The inner workings and claustrophobic atmosphere of CBS and the manner and speech of '50s America are impeccably recreated. The use of real footage is also fascinating. Seeing the Senator dig his own grave in his own words – is very effective. Plus David Strathairn's performance is outstanding, wonderfully capturing this articulate man who had an unflinching resolve to report truthfully, without fear of the consequences, showing film shows us heroism at work – in the odd environment of a TV show. But most of all – and without browbeating, this is a reminder of the importance of press freedom.

 

Watch 'Good Night, and Good Luck' now at SBS On Demand: