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Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005 09:07 pm

When courage was an exception to the rule

Good Night, and Good Luck offers a meticulous account of the confrontation between two powerful men

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George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck tells the story of the famous over-the-air battle between newsman Edward R. Murrow and U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a confrontation that helped undermine political support for the demagogue. It’s a meticulous account that adheres closely to the facts and even includes film from the period to bolster its authenticity. The year is 1953, and veteran war correspondent Murrow (David Strathairn) has risen to the top of the CBS news department, using his program See it Now as a forum to report on important issues. When a story about an officer in the armed forces who’s been dishonorably discharged for no apparent reason comes across his desk, Murrow and producer Fred Friendly (Clooney) investigate. They learn that the soldier has been accused of being a member of the Communist Party and convicted by a tribunal without ever being shown the evidence against him. Realizing that reporting on this case means taking on McCarthy, Murrow and Friendly go after the Communist-hunter with both barrels. Their efforts put them and the members of their staff — Joe and Shirley Wershba (Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson), Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise), and station manager Sig Mickelson (Jeff Daniels) — in jeopardy. Even the powerful owner and founder of CBS, William Paley (Frank Langella), finds himself threatened by conservative sponsors who want him to kill the program. The film moves at a rapid pace and is quite exciting as we see Murrow and McCarthy exchange volleys. Clooney does a masterful job of conveying the seriousness of these issues and the paranoia of the early 1950s. Good Night, and Good Luck is a rare film, one with purpose that makes no bones about its intentions and politics. Clooney, who co-wrote the script with Grant Heslov (who appears as Don Hewitt), sends a clear message that applies to every age: Journalists have a moral responsibility to report the truth, and nobody has the right to suppress that truth.

Also in theaters this week. . .

Chicken Little [G] The sky is falling. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

G [R] The story of Summer G’s rise to money and power in the hip-hop world and his pursuit of a college love that rejected him. Parkway Pointe

Jarhead [R] An adaptation of Marine Anthony Swofford’s memoir of time spent in the trenches during the first Gulf War. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Shopgirl [R] Thoughtful Mirabelle, a shopgirl, finds herself stuck between loving two men: Ray, a rich older man and Jeremy a young struggling musician. ShowPlace West

The Weather Man [R] A troubled Chicago weatherman tries to hold it together at the height of his broadcasting career despite his plummeting personal life. Parkway Pointe
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