Senator Joe Macarthy -- the junior Senator from Wisconsin, who was investigating un-American activities especially of Communists and their sympathizers -- is targeted by Murrow. And the two men’s televised conflicts make gripping drama, with the black and white images adding punch and depth.
Clooney (Best Director nod), who himself plays Murrow’s supportive producer, Fred Friendly, works with a tight script which takes us into the working of a newsroom, where each one believes that the freedom of speech and information can never be compromised under any circumstance.
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," Murrow tells his viewers. "We cannot defeat freedom abroad by abandoning it at home." Friendly nods with a smile in complete agreement.
“Good Night, and Good Luck” – this is how Murrow ends each episode of his telecasts – seems like a powerful indictment of what is happening in the U.S. today. We have seen some of it in the case of Michael Moore, whose documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, attracted harsh reactions from President George Bush himself.
David Strathairn, (nominated in the Best Actor category), who enacts Murrow, is a force to reckon with on the screen, and he brings to life one of world’s best known and feared journalists. His comments stirred the first of the opposition for the “witch hunt” in America that threatened to disturb the foundation of free speech.
Bennett Miller’s (in the Best Director’s race) “Capote” is a fascinating account of novelist Truman Capote’s obsession with himself and his work: he reads a 1959 newspaper article about the murder of a wealthy family by two sociopaths. Capote meets them and tries analyzing their minds till their hanging. This takes about six years, and a book, “In Cold Blood” emerges after that.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor nomination), who is Capote in the film, is wonderful with his squeaky drawl and elfin looks. Hoffman succeeds in projecting almost flawlessly Capote’s complex character and temperament.
Not so personal at some level is Steven Spielberg’s (also running for the Best Director trophy) “Munich”, which tells the story of Black September: the massacre of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Eric Bana (Of “Troy” fame”) turns into a fine actor in “Munich”, where as the Mossad (Israeli secret service) agent, Avner, heads a small team to eliminate the 11 people guilty of masterminding the massacre.
Bana captures the turmoil in Avner as he ultimately realises that just as he is fighting a cause, so are the others. Avner’s transformation from a killer to a humanist, who worries himself sick about his baby daughter and wife, underlines Spielberg’s theme, beautifully brought out in the closing shot of “Munich”. We see the Twin Towers in New York, and as Avner refuses the Mossad chief to take up further assignments and walks away, “Munich’s” soul-searching message cannot be missed: nations must remember their blunders and the dark side of their past.
Paul Haggis’ (Best Director contender) “Crash” is a moving picture of racial crime in Los Angeles that like “Munich” has undertones of troubled conscience. We see a white police officer molest a black woman in the presence of her husband. Sometime later, the officer risks his life to save the same woman trapped in an overturned car which is about to explode. Other such examples can be seen.
In a voice over at the beginning, we hear “in a city where people are afraid to touch, we crash into each other to feel something”. “Crash” begins an ends with an automobile collission that substantiates this and more. Haggis of course gives us reasons why his characters behave the way they do in a engaging piece of work that is intimate and even endearing in some ways.
Clearly, this is the year of intimacy.
(This story appeared in The Hindu dated March 3 2006)
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