Picks and Pans Review: Good Night, and Good Luck

updated 10/17/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr.

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Forget his old Sexiest Man Alive title. George Clooney can now stake legitimate claim to being one of the most truly talented guys in Hollywood. With Good Night, and Good Luck, he has directed, cowritten and costarred in a movie so smart, timely and savvily succinct (90 minutes) that it takes your breath away.

Working in black and white and sticking closely to historical record, Clooney and cowriter Grant Heslov show how pioneering TV journalist Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn) took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy (shown in vintage footage) at the height of the Wisconsin politician's Communist witch-hunting. In a remark as relevant today as when first broadcast in 1954, Murrow denounces McCarthy's bullying tactics, saying, "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty."

With economy and assurance, Clooney (who plays Fred Friendly, Murrow's coproducer) elegantly establishes the bygone era of TV's infancy. Men wear suits, women fetch coffee, and nearly everyone sucks on cigarettes. (Murrow, who often puffed away on-air, died of lung cancer in 1965.) Strathairn, conveying the moral weight of his words as authoritatively as Murrow did, is flat-out superb. What Murrow did mattered; so does this film. (PG)

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