Essay: Film Good Night and Good Luck

Pages: 4 (1366 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Night and Good Luck (2005)

At heart, the film "Good Night and Good Luck" seems what might be called an old-fashioned message film. In other words, it is a film with a strong, ideological point-of-view regarding the broadcasting of journalist Edward R. Murrow during the McCarthy witch-hunts. However, "Good Night and Good Luck" does not merely portray a struggle of good vs. evil, in political terms but forces the viewer to question his or her own assumptions about modern political issues, such as what constitutes an appropriate balance between national security and freedom. The film raises an important question that is likely to be thought-provoking for those who are in accordance with the filmmaker's point-of-view -- how free is a free press when it is controlled more by corporate concerns than a desire to reveal the truth? True, some individuals watching the film might be angry at seeing hysterical anti-communists skewed by a director and scriptwriter who are largely viewed as liberal, and these viewers are unlikely to be converted by its style of presentation. But a film does not ultimately have to be 'all things to all people,' and simply because it does not produce a wholly balanced view of the past does not make it a bad film, so long as it has artistic integrity.

The film tells the story of Edward R. Murrow, one of the most respected foreign correspondents of World War II whose customary sign-off was "Good Night and Good Luck," hence the title of the film. The film purports to be a true-life tale of Murrow's postwar life as a journalist when he fell afoul of the House Un-American activities commission, headed by Joseph McCarthy. It chronicles a period of history that many Americans would like to forget, where paranoia about 'the Russians' caused many individuals to question the patriotism of anyone who criticized the government. Murrow was a highly respected journalist. To some degree, he had always been an advocate of interventionalist journalism -- he urged America to become more involved in World War II long before it was popular. Murrow said what he believed, not what was popular or even necessarily in conformation to standards of journalistic 'objectivity.' The film lionizes his courage, as he stands against his boss at CBS, the sponsors -- everyone who does not have the courage to speak aloud. The film explicitly challenges the conventional wisdom that there are two sides to every issue, as presented in the media. Murrow was right, that there was flimsy evidence against the people whose names McCarthy was smearing, and he was pressured to conform to popular, public opinion and say that communists were lurking behind every corner.

The film is highly atmospheric -- it does not even use an actor to depict Joseph McCarthy on screen, instead it uses footage from the era. Everything about the film is designed to create the appearance of being from 'another time and place.' The film looks like documentary or television footage from the 1950s, full of shades of black and grey. But the point of the view is quite explicit -- McCarthy is wrong, Murrow is right. And those who would not give Murrow's voice full reign and place the corporate bottom line ahead of speaking the truth are wrong as well. There is no 'other side' to the issue. To present the political argument from McCarthy's side would be to look away from the truth, and refuse to uphold journalistic ideals that cannot be bought or sold. Saying there is substance to the allegations, that there is something 'there' when there is not, is like saying there might be weapons of mass destruction in an empty warehouse.

For a film to unapologetically proclaim that journalists can hold a strong point-of-view, when it is supported by what that journalist uncontrovertibly considers the truth flies in the face of conventional ways of arguing about the media. According to some aesthetic standards a film with such a clear point-of-view should not 'seem' good, on the surface, given showing two sides of any issue is supposed to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Film Good Night and Good Luck.  (2008, October 31).  Retrieved October 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/film-good-night-luck/561660

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"Film Good Night and Good Luck."  Essaytown.com.  October 31, 2008.  Accessed October 15, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/film-good-night-luck/561660.