After meaning to see it for a year, we finally got a chance to see Good Night, and Good Luck. It was really good– very absorbing and dramatic. And interestingly more like a play than a movie, despite its artful use of archival footage, and good cinematography, which did not treat the scene like a filmed play, but was very much part of the drama in its movement and framing, in short, very cinematic. I suppose the impression of it being a play comes from the action being confined to two or three indoor locations- a TV studio, control room, offices, and a couple’s bedroom, and also the spareness of the narrative, which does not venture into Murrow’s personal life to “explain” his “motivations” and all those pop psychology things most films feel compelled to incorporate. Straithern’s Murrow was quite enigmatic and opaque. Anything personal was given over to the supporting cast, through whom the film showed us the toll McCarthyism, and the general atmosphere of paranoia and distrust took on people’s personal lives and careers.
According to an article in Slate, Murrow’s role in bringing down McCarthy was just one of the strands of the larger story. There were other courageous people who paved the way for Murrow, who came rather late into the game. Whatever the historical lapses of the film, the fact remains that the Red Scare and McCarthyism destroyed many lives and careers, and was a shameful period in American history, which most people seem to have forgotten about.
The film is perhaps more a commentary on our times than an attempt to be a history lesson, which it manages to do rather effectively.