The problem with making a historical film is that everyone knows how it ends. That said, Good Night, and Good Luck is a stupendous, masterfully-done film that speaks to audiences today and certainly has applications in today's day and age.
Good Night, and Good Luck follows the struggle of six journalists-especially Edward R. Murrow, considered one of the broadcast television's greatest journalists, and his producer, Fred Friendly-against the Communist witchhunts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Murrow and Friendly combat McCarthy on the air, interviewing victims of his hysterical witchhunts and broadcasting his trials.
George Clooney wrote and directed the film, but he was wise enough to step back and let David Strathairn take the role of Edward Murrow and instead played the supporting role of Murrow's producer, Fred Friendly.
Strathairn nails Murrow's mannerisms and cadence, right down to the chain smoking and slow, deliberate speaking style. Clooney was also wise enough to let Murrow's words stand on their own; he never attempted to alter any of Murrow's speeches or broadcasts.
The only thing the film might suffer from is its lack of suspense. There is no grand finale, no climax. The viewer is almost taken by surprise when the film ends after only 93 minutes. Other than that, the film is well-paced. There are both moments of seriousness and moments of humor. Clooney and Strathairn have wonderful onscreen chemistry and witty banter. Scenes with Frank William Paley, the unpredictable then-head honcho of CBS, played by Frank Langella, are always filled with tension.
The film is entirely in black and white and incorporates real footage of McCarthy. The production designs and costumes are consistent with the period, down to the old-style typewriters and microphones. All this combines to give the film a very historical, old-fashioned feel, which works well with its content.
Where the film shines brightest, however, is its application to today's political climate. "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home," Murrow says in one of his famous broadcast closers. "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty."
In his formal speech at the end, Murrow comments on the then-infant television industry, on how the industry chooses to air what is popular rather than what is good for its audience. "This instrument can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and it can even inspire," he says. "But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."