Good Night, and Good Luck is as simple and beautiful as a movie can be. What's more, it's an important film, about a period in our history, not so far past at all, which seems to have been totally forgotten by far too many of us.
It's the story of Edward R. Murrow's (played exquisitely by David Strathairn) famous confrontation with Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. It centers around the newsroom at CBS -- indeed, apart from a scene at a bar where the station's employees gather, and a couple of scenes at the home of Joe (Robert Downey Jr.) and Sherley Wershaba (Patricia Clarkson), it takes place entirely in the CBS offices and studio.
The film is not much more than a simple, straightforward retelling of the events which laid the foundation for the downfall of McCarthy's awful campaign, and exposed the beginning of the corporatization of network news (for more on that story, watch Network, one of the finest movies of all time, in my book). The story is our history, and if you don't know it, follow this link to spend some time with Wikipedia on the subject. Clooney, who directed it, does the fabulous job of restraining himself, not adding any frills or ornaments, and just telling a story which moves naturally from A to B. Every actor in the film does exactly what is asked of them, exactly what the story calls for, simply and easily and without any fuss or comment. The result is a stripped-down, black and white view into the frightening past we are doomed to repeat if we cannot learn from it.
As an aside here, I wanna say that I got dragged into a little bit of a political blog fight a week or so ago. I try to stay out of the comment battles which rage on the political blogs I read, but I could not resist this one. At one point I compared the goings on to McCarthy's communist accusations, and suggested we should avoid that sort of thing, knowing how many people, not to mention the spirit of America, were hurt in that process. I was shocked to be answered by several posters who vehemently defended Joe McCarthy and his actions during that dark time in our history, and all but called him a hero. I don't know how any of us, with such distance, with access to all he facts we did not know at the time, with full knowledge of the fallout, can side with such a man, but Ann Coulter does, and so, again, shockingly, do many others.
So, apart from just being a simple, well-crafted, extremely enjoyable movie with fantastic writing, direction and performances, Good Night, and Good Luck is an important historical document. If you don't know the story, or even if you do, watch it and compare it to what is happening in the political landscape of America today. Perhaps, like I was last week, you'll be shocked to see how little we've learned since those black and white times.