Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) >>

1) What's beautiful about this country is that we figure out pretty quickly that we can't take away civil rights and liberties in order to protect the Union because then there would be no Union to protect. I thought it was interesting -- in the face of the Patriot Act and Guantánamo Bay -- to reiterate the idea that we must maintain the right to face our accuser. We must defend the idea that dissent is not disloyalty. (Clooney, qtd. in Jaafar)

2) [George Clooney’s] recent appointment as a United Nations peace envoy, speeches against the atrocities in Darfur, long-time backing of Barack Obama, and offer to negotiate an end to the Hollywood scriptwriters’ strike has made him a force to be reckoned with in politics. (Monetti 62)

3) [The Bush Administration] did succeed in its essential objective [for reinstating the Patriot Act]. The few changes made by the Senate are far from re-establishing the balance in favor of judicial authority and the measures most threatening to individual and collective liberties, such as “sneak and peak” and “National Security Letters,” were extended, without any controls over their area of application. (Paye 31)

4) It is not as though President Bush did not have the means to undertake NSA spying within the law. He could have sought warrants by the special FISA courts set up for that very purpose. If speed was of importance, the NSA could have carried out the surveillance and come back to the FISA court within seventy-two hours for retrospective authorization, as provided for by the law. Of if the law, as written, was too narrow to allow the kind of surveillance deemed necessary (e.g. data mining or call tagging), the president could have asked Congress to change the law (which had been amended several times since 9/11). But President Bush did none of these things; instead, he secretly ordered the NSA to conduct the surveillance and, when his actions were disclosed, he asserted that he had the constitutional authority to ignore the law. (Pfiffner 134)

5) I don't do [politically oriented films] to make money, I'm doing them because I want to make films that tackle political and social issues. I fully believe in entertainment -- I've made a lot of it over the years -- but in general I think films should also reflect society. When we were at our best in terms of film-making we were at our most volatile as a society. (Clooney, qtd. in Jaafar)

6) Clooney’s film seemed to have been aimed as much at the Washington journalists today—including Bob Woodward, some thirty years after his own heroic movement—journalists whose desire for “access” to secret sources of information allowed the Bush administration to manipulate the news as well as stifle any serious investigation of its activities. (Richter 146)

7) The world of television news, known to us from our own watching habits as well as the grotesque parodies of it found in Network (Gottfried & Lumet, 1976) and Broadcast News (Brooks, 1987) as an enormous, powerful establishment, is seen here as a fledgling enterprise, being invented and slapped together by pioneers who barely knew where they were heading, while juggling personal lives and job insecurities. (Bernard Beck 28)

8) The film is succinct and compact and unpretentious, but between its lines lurks a vast and chaotic social struggle, among ethical rectitude, private preservation, and the duties of media to support the citizenry, not, as Murrow says in podium polemic, “to distract, delude, denude, and isolate us.” (Atkinson C56)

9) [Clooney] becomes the latest Hollywood director to make a film in which the truth about American Communism is deliberately falsified. (Terry Teachout 69)

10) While Good Night, and Good Luck lays bare the contradictions of McCarthy's position as he created a climate of fear, the narrow focus of the film simplifies a rather complex era and the personnel involved. . . . The film limits its account of American history entirely to the perspective of the respective journalists. (Hochscherf and Laucht)

11) George Bush, whatever you may think of his policies, isn’t Joe McCarthy, and it’s not as if his most fervent detractors in the press have been silenced. (Gleiberman 118)

12) What’s exceptional about “Good Night, and Good Luck”… is that it doesn’t sacrifice craftsmanship and elegance at the altar of its strong convictions. This is serious grown-up entertainment with a sense of history and a sense of style, the kind of picture almost no one knows how to—or, perhaps more accurately, can find the means to—make anymore. (Zackarek [2])

13) Good Night, and Good Luck is a passionate, thoughtful essay on power, truth-telling, and responsibility. (Scott E1)

14) A taut, well-made film that reminds us that, for good or ill, the whole voice-of-God business began with Murrow. Unlike many broadcast journalists today, who seem constantly to be auditioning for the role of America’s Chum, Murrow was a serious man for serious times. He stood for something and thought the news business should too. (Don Aucoin 115)

15) When I was growing up, my father's argument was always, it's not just your right, it's your duty to question authority. Always. (George Clooney, qtd. in Teachout 72)

16) Whatever his flaws and whatever the flaws of this film that memorializes his words and deeds, Edward R. Murrow knew that the pursuit of happiness rested on firmer principles than the quest for entertainment and for eyeballs. (Don Aucoin 116)

17) Good Night, and Good Luck is intended to persuade its viewers that journalists today have abdicated their responsibility to do as Murrow did. (Terry Teachout 72)

18) I’ve been a big old liberal my whole life, and I’m hard-pressed to find when [liberals] have been on the wrong side of social issues—to lose the moral argument. Without the liberal view we'd still be burning witches at the stake, and women wouldn't be voting, and blacks would be sitting at the back of the bus, and we'd be in Vietnam, and McCarthy'd be in power. (Clooney, qtd. in Stockwell)

19) Although patriotic movies often end with a moral about how precious our free institutions are and how hard we must work to protect them, this movie really seems to mean it. It hints that we are losing that particular struggle. (Bernard Beck 28)

20) I viewed the movie in Boston—more specifically, Harvard Square in Cambridge. This was indeed the right place for a movie catering to liberalism and perpetuating its mythology…. This movie does a good job of spouting the liberal line that McCarthy unconscionably targeted innocent victims and castigated them mercilessly, ruining their lives. The mood throughout the theater I attended was one of disgust that a U.S. senator would intrude into the personal associations of American citizens and prohibit Communists from serving in the government. (Eddlem 34)

21) The suspense of the film’s plot relies entirely on its close focus, the tensions within the seemingly autonomous CBS newsroom. As much as Clooney might be a liberal demagogue, he is a skillful entertainer. (Hochscherf and Laucht)

22) What was remarkable about "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy" was not the critical position it took -- McCarthy had already been under attack by numerous other journalists for some time -- but the fact that Murrow was using "See It Now" to criticize him. . . . Murrow crossed a still-bright journalistic line. (Terry Teachout 71)

23) George Clooney’s film reduces to a duel what was clearly a much more complex historical process. Even in that duel, the two sides should not be thought of as a lone knight and a dragon or as David and Goliath. (Richter 145)

24) Politically, Clooney’s larger purpose in reconstructing McCarthy's smear campaigns and his efforts to criminalize dissent is to invite us to consider parallels to the present day. (Don Aucoin 116)

25) Clooney's black-and-white drama is not only a cautionary fable for today, however, but also a nostalgic homage to the claustrophobic, male-dominated television newsroom of the 1950s, depicted as the last bastion of the unflinching journalism Murrow personified. (Ali Jaafar)

26) Like any defined group with special definitions, journalists are expected to be better and suspected of being worse than ordinary people. (Bernard Beck 28)

27) Clooney is a serious filmmaker seeking to use the past to illuminate the present. (Briley 985)

28) McCarthy's witch hunt, however irresponsible in practice, was at least nominally motivated by the existence of actual witches. . . . We are invited to suppose that the activities of Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, and other Soviet agents were nothing more than a paranoid fantasy on the part of McCarthy and his supporters. (Terry Teachout 71)

29) History as actuality does not change. Whatever the past was, it remains as it was. This is so obvious that it seems unnecessary to state it. But, almost as obviously, written history does change. Historians’ perceptions of actual history change as the lenses through which they view the past change. (Shannon 3)