Director: Michael Cuesta
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, Jena Sims, Robert Patrick
Run Time: 112 minutes
Synopsis: A reporter becomes the victim of a smear campaign after exposing a link between CIA backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua, Nicaraguan drug trafficking and the outbreak of crack cocaine in America’s inner cities.
The longer I cogitate on Michael Cuesta’s KILL THE MESSENGER, the more I realise just how unobtrusively compelling this film truly is.
Inspired by the life of Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) and his ‘Dark Alliance’ exposé on the explosion of crack cocaine in the United States (which inevitably ruined his career), the film draws attention to the power and reach of fourth and fifth estate journalism and to the subjective objectivism of its gatekeepers.
Having said all that, if you take the time to reach beyond this controversial surface story and embrace Sean Bobbitt’s intimate framing and selective foci, you’ll discover Gary; a doggedly passionate and humanly flawed individual whose good intention to report a story ‘just too true to tell’ results in an overwhelmingly biased and unfair challenge on his credibility and integrity with devastating consequences.
Renner’s (THE HURT LOCK, THE BOURNE LEGACY) performance is captivating in its subtlety; allowing momentary characters including Norwin Meneses (Andy Garcia), Fred Weil (Michael Sheen) and Jerry Ceppos (Oliver Platt) to drive the story’s factual elements in a similar manner experienced by Webb. The use of medium and close-up shots and oscillating lighting gives you a bird’s eye view to Renner’s struggles as the voraciously shocking professional and personal smear campaign takes its toll. Renner becomes more unashamedly haggard with dwindling moments of indignation on screen at each roadblock. It may also explain why Cuesta opted to gloss over the pivotal points of this sad story and tie it up in Webb’s panegyric acceptance speech and closing title card.
Overall, I enjoyed this film and recommend that you take time out to see it. Sure it has its flaws –so do Gary Webb and the story itself – but that’s why it works. As Webb said (on reflection of his downfall)
‘The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job. The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress’.
[usr=4] KILL THE MESSENGER is out in UK cinemas on 6th March.