[Screen It]


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

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate None Extreme Minor None
Minor None None None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
None Extreme Minor Moderate *Minor

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.

Unless they're fans of anyone in the cast or are interested in TV news of old or the real-life, historical story portrayed here, it doesn't seem too likely.
For mild thematic elements and brief language.
  • DAVID STRATHAIRN plays the legendary newsman, a man of integrity who feels it's his sworn duty to expose McCarthy for who he is and what he's doing to others. He does so at great risk to himself, his news crew and network. He also smokes throughout and drinks some.
  • GEORGE CLOONEY plays his producer who's right there with him in hopes of stopping McCarthy via their news reporting of him. He also drinks.
  • RAY WISE plays another TV newsman, a protégé of Edward who folds under the pressure of being labeled a communist by a newspaper writer. He smokes and ends up committing suicide.
  • FRANK LANGELLA plays the head of CBS who's always been supportive of Murrow, but begins to wonder if he and his crew are going too far, sentiments shared by his subordinate played by JEFF DANIELS.
  • JOSEPH McCARTHY appears as himself (in news clips and other such footage), a U.S. Senator who's determined to root out communists and their sympathizers and isn't happy about Murrow's news stories about him.
  • ROBERT DOWNEY JR. and PATRICIA CLARKSON play a married couple that works on the show and tries to keep their marriage secret (since it's against the network rules), all while worrying about the spread of McCarthyism.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this drama that's been rated PG. Profanity consists of a few minor expletives, while some colorful phrases are also present. A flashback shows the beginning of a suicide via natural gas exposure, while various bad attitudes are present. All sorts of characters smoke (some nonstop) throughout the film, while a moderate amount of drinking occurs. Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, there's talk of a man's wife leaving him, and thematic elements include the aforementioned suicide, all of the material related to the hunt for communists in 1950s America and the role of the media.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

  • Miscellaneous people have drinks at a reception.
  • Edward is told a man's waiting to have a drink with him, but Edward doesn't have the time for that.
  • Edward says he feels like a scotch, with Fred replying that they all do. We then see them and many others from their crew in a bar drinking. When they get word that the NY Times did a favorable story on them, Edward states to send them a bottle of scotch. Most of them then drink more, with Fred the next morning commenting on having a hangover you wouldn't believe.
  • Edward asks Fred how a scotch sounds and the latter says it sounds good.
  • None.
  • Although never personified as a real character (he's only seen in archival news and other footage), McCarthy has no problems labeling people as communists or communist sympathizers, thus potentially ruining their lives (and he uses the tactic of doing that to anyone who questions his tactics or targets -- all as a means to prevent anyone from doing that). He also goes on the attack against Murrow and CBS for their news reporting of him.
  • Shirley and Joe keep their marriage secret from everyone, particularly since it's against the network rules for two coworkers to be married.
  • There's talk of a navy pilot being forced to denounce his family over communist charges brought against his father and then that he was kicked out of the military for refusing to do so (being found guilty with no formal charges or evidence revealed against him).
  • A colonel warns Fred that these are "dangerous waters you're attempting to navigate" (about getting involved in the McCarthy story and that of the pilot being kicked out of the navy).
  • We hear that Don Hollenbeck's been labeled a "pinko" by a newspaper writer.
  • A senatorial aide gives info to Joe about Edward, stating that the latter was on the Soviet payroll (thus trying to hush the newsman's campaign through extortion and possible lies).
  • We hear that a man committed suicide and then see a brief flashback where he turns on the gas stove (but we don't see his actual death).
  • None.
  • Phrases: "What the hell's he doing here?" "A hell of a lot more," "Pinko," "Commie" and "A hell of a writer."
  • Edward jokes to Fred that the latter was always yellow, with Fred playfully replying, "Better than red."
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 4 hells and 2 uses of "G-damn."
  • None.
  • Edward smokes more than 20 times, Palmer smokes several times, Sig and Don smoke at least once and a slew of minor and miscellaneous characters smoke throughout the film (mostly cigarettes but a few pipes).
  • We see a photo of Edward with Marilyn Monroe and both are holding cigarettes.
  • Edward smokes while doing the live TV news over the air.
  • We see a cigarette commercial for Kent cigarettes where the pitchman smokes.
  • There's talk that Don Hollenbeck's wife left him.
  • One crewmember mentions having an ex-wife.
  • The historical accuracy of the story and/or any artistic license taken with it.
  • Communism and those like McCarthy who desired to root out any communists or sympathizers in the U.S.
  • The role of the media.
  • Whether news people can report the news without editorializing it.
  • The worry about corporate sponsor reaction to controversial news coverage.
  • The amount of smoking portrayed in the film and the fact that Edward died of lung cancer years later.
  • How today's journalists and news people compare to the legends of the past.
  • The fine line between investigation and prosecution.
  • The tactic that McCarthy used by stating/acting that anyone who opposed him and/or his ways was automatically a communist.
  • The fact that at his salute, Edward blasted the media for having become complacent in their duties.
  • The fact that Edward was so adamant about doing the McCarthy story that he offered to pay for any potentially dropped ads.
  • There's a joke on the part of the film (although it really occurred) where Edward asks Liberace (who may or may not have been known at the time for being gay) if he's going to get married.
  • Paley's statement to Edward that they don't make the news, they report it.
  • Edward and Fred's crew are asked if any have ties to communism (and if so, they have to step down from the story).
  • We hear that a man committed suicide and then see a brief flashback where he turns on the gas stove (but we don't see his actual death).
  • Paley tells Edward, "Everyone censors...including you."
  • We hear that a man committed suicide and then see a brief flashback where he turns on the gas stove (but we don't see his actual death).

  • Reviewed September 9, 2005 / Posted October 7, 2005

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