[Screen It]

(2005) (David Strathairn, George Clooney) (PG)

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Drama: A legendary TV newsman takes on a powerful and influential U.S. Senator over the latter's witch-hunt style tactics of trying to root out communists and communist sympathizers in 1950s America.
It's 1953 and Edward R. Murrow (DAVID STRATHAIRN) is the New York City based host of CBS News' "See it Now" and "Person to Person." Along with his producer Fred Friendly (GEORGE CLOONEY) and hard working staff that includes Don Hewitt (GRANT HESLOV), Palmer Williams (TOM MCCARTHY), Jesse Zousmer (TATE DONOVAN), John Aaron (REED DIAMOND), Charlie Mack (ROBERT JOHN BURKE), Eddie Scott (MATT ROSS) and Joe (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.) and Shirley Wershba (PATRICIA CLARKSON) -- who've kept their marriage secret although most everyone knows - Murrow reports on daily newsworthy stories to the American people.

His focus of recent has been on Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin whose efforts to root out communists and their sympathizers have made him one of the most feared men in the country. That's especially true for members of the press -- such as Murrow protégé Don Hollenbeck (RAY WISE) -- who are pointed out as being communists if they question his tactics or targets.

But when Navy pilot Milo Radulovich is kicked out of the military for refusing to denounce his immigrant father and sister for their alleged suspicious activity, Murrow feels it's his duty to expose McCarthy and his questionable tactics. That worries CBS' number two man Sig Mickelson (JEFF DANIELS) who's concerned about the potential ramifications, and eventually draws the attention of his boss, William Paley (FRANK LANGELLA) who reluctantly agrees to let Murrow and his crew continue with their reporting.

As the months pass and McCarthy turns up the heat on Murrow, the show, CBS and their corporate sponsor, the newsman and his crew continue to strive to inform the American public about McCarthy's activities, in hopes that they might be able to make a change.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Shot like a live, 1950's TV show -- in black and white, with lots of close-ups, few set changes or locations, and lots and lots of cigarette smoke -- this is a tightly wound drama about a pivotal event in U.S. political and news history.

Although I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the main characters' outside lives -- the only brief moments of that showcase Downey Jr. and Clarkson's moments at home -- and some of the supporting characters are barely personified, everything else about the film is terrific.

That particularly pertains to Strathairn's award-worthy performance that's fantastic, Clooney's sophomore outing behind the camera (where he seems to have matured after the Chuck Barris biopic "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind") and a tightly woven script with some terrific sounding dialogue.

While you may feel like you're going to get cancer from all of the period-accurate, cigarette use, the rest of the film is sharp in focus both visually and thematically. (Our full review will be available soon)

Reviewed September 9, 2005 / Posted October 7, 2005

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