Good Night, And Good Luck

Good Night, And Good Luck (2005)
Warner Home Video
Cast: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

Not only as an actor but also as a director, George Clooney, proves over and over again that he knows his chops. With his latest film "Good Night, And Good Luck," which he directed and stars in, he takes on the political nightmare that went down in history as the McCarthy era. It was a time where Americans were terrorized by their own government and no one was willing to speak up for fear of the repercussions. After a great-looking DVD version, Warner Home Video has now prepared a HD-DVD version that gives us a look at the film in high definition, as well as the DVD-version on its flip side.

Based on real events, in "Good Night, And Good Luck" we witness how CBS television anchor Ed Murrow (David Strathairn) decided that he had enough of McCarthy and his henchman J. Edgar Hoover bullying innocent Americans into exile and destroying the reputation of entire families. Together with his producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and his staff he begins collecting material to build a case that he could present on the air. Then, one night he throws down the gauntlet and in a broadcast accuses the Air Force – and thus indirectly also the government – of having bullied a serviceman out of the army as a Communist conspirator without any concise evidence and without ever giving him the chance to even see the accusations. The effect is phenomenal – though twofold. The American public immediately takes an interest in the case and vocally supports Murrow for being so brave as to face the wind. But at the same time, now Murrow himself becomes the target of Hoover who begins defaming him as a supporter of the Communist party.
But Murrow was prepared for this and step by step he begins tearing down the card house the McCarthy and Hoover have built as he shows every American household how innocent people are being brandished and how every citizen in the Untied States was living in fear of McCarthy's cadre. Laying out the facts for everyone to see his arguments become so powerful that indeed he managed to bring the McCarthy era to an end and became not only a celebrated newscaster, but a historic figure who changed the course of this, our country.

Like "All The President's Men," for example, "Good Night, And Good Luck" is a movie that revives a dark part of American history, and just like "All The President's Men" these issues have once again come to the forefront of our minds as our own government's actions of recent have come under fire and are being questioned by its citizens.

Sadly, it is also clear that in this day and age, a man like Murrow would have no chance of telling the truth or being heard for that matter. The film itself closes with a speech by Murrow at the time, which conjured up a TV network and consumer mentality that has sadly come true. TV networks no longer work to bring the truth, they are not even journalists any longer in the real sense. They are entertainers who make a living selling advertising space and wrapping some worthless programming around it as an excuse. Add to it the rise of the Internet and you are looking at a world where the signal to noise ratio is so high that is has become practically impossible to separate fact from fiction. We are sadly living in a world where even the dumbest of the dumb can – and do – make themselves heard and will inevitable gather an equally dumb following.

David Strathairn is making quite a mark as Edward J. Murrow under George Clooney's sure-handed direction. He is coming across as someone who is very deliberate and knows to value every word he says. Intelligent, quite and determined, it is a wonderful performance that adds incredible weight to the film. Clooney's performance is nicely understated, helping to bring the focus onto Strathairn. Also, look out for a great performance by Frank Langella as the CBS network president who gives Murrow his full support.

Warner Home Video has created a meticulous transfer for this black and white film for this release and the presentation is rich in detail. The transfer is absolutely clean and free of any defects. However, while doing side-by-side comparisons with the DVD version it quickly becomes evident that improvements in the high definition version may not be as striking as you'd expect. There are two reasons for that – one of them the fact that "Good Night, And Good Luck" is a black and white film and as such cannot improve much on color fidelity, and the second reason being that the DVD transfer was simply remarkable to begin with. But even though the improvements may not immediately stare you in the face, they are there and can be found mostly in the way the picture handles minute details and shades. Hair and skin pores are more visible and I found that particularly clothing and the wrinkles in them are rendered with more detail. Where in the DVD transfer we may see a hint of a wrinkle, the HD-DVD version shows us the entire crease, complete with a tiny shadow it may cast. So, the transfer plays its muscles particularly in these picture details, making sure nothing remains unseen. The movie's black and white style helps tremendously to recall the era and catapult the viewer back in time, as do the soulful jazz numbers that make up the movie's soundtrack. Using original footage of Hoover and McCarthy, instead of using actors, was a great choice by Clooney to lend additional credibility to the film. Some of the footage is a bit grainy, of course, given the limitations of the time, but look much better than you may have expected. Blacks are deep and solid and highlights are balanced, and once again the high definition transfer renders an image with more accurate contrast then the DVD version did, giving the image a bit more dimension and visual depth.

The DVD's audio is equally laid back and makes only sparing use of the surround channels for effect. Presented as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital Plus track the audio is wonderfully clear and absolutely free of distortion. The ambient sound effects that are used throughout the discrete channels add a sparkle of life to the track as they come off wonderfully detailed. The same goes for the music, which has an added sparkle of life when compared to the DVD's Dolby Digital track.

As bonus materials the release comes with a powerhouse commentary track by George Clooney and producer/writer Grant Heslov. I call it a powerhouse because this track dives deep into the historical and political aspects of the material presented in the film. It shows that both not only understand the material very well but also have very strong feelings about it. It is certainly no news to anybody that George Clooney has a political opinion as he has made it clear before, and this film fits him like a glove. It was natural for him to pick up something like this and bring it to the screen.

Also included is a featurette called "Good Night, And Good Luck: Companion Piece." It is filled with interviews by cast and crew members as well as some of the original people who were involved in Murrow's work and were as such shown in the movie. It is a featurette that is well put together and well worth viewing.

The movie's trailer is also included on the release.

On the reverse side of the disc you will find the DVD version of the movie, which is exactly the same version that is being sold separately and was released earlier.

"Good Night, And Good Luck" is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Never moralistic or screaming out its message, the film is quiet and understated, driving its points home, one scene at a time with meaningful dialog, meaningful acting and meaningful moments from Murrow's work. "Good Night, And Good Luck" is a history lesson coming to life and as such should be seen and valued by everyone. Do not miss this opportunity to understand the power of the media as well as the ease of politics to corrupt those in power.