Kill the Messenger

Dark yet intriguing, this film is worth the effort for those who value history. It’s like watching a flawed mole crawl down a rat hole for honorable purposes, never to emerge.

Kill the MessengerIn Director Michael Cuesta’s Kill the Messenger, the viewer relives parts of the Iran Contra scandal that Reagan fans would like to forget. Based on a true story,  Jeremy Renner, again at the top of his game, plays a California reporter by the name of Gary Webb who accidentally uncovers a government program where the CIA is acting illegally. More to the point, a number of drug lords from Central America were permitted to funnel cocaine into the United States as long as a portion of the money raised was used to buy guns for Nicaraguan rebels backed by the U.S.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it does deserve to be remembered. With our country declaring a public war on drugs, we simultaneously were turning a blind eye to the sad fact that those very drugs were being flown to various cities of the United States on a regular basis. Ironically, public figures like Ollie North still garner extremist support in this country, and he was at the center of this entire national nightmare.

What you see in Mr. Webb is a reporter trying to rebuild his marriage in Southern California. Supported by a wife (Rosemarie Dewitt) who was willing to forgive his past transgressions, he tries to raise his three children while working as an investigative reporter in San Jose.

After uncovering a boatload of incriminating evidence, Mr. Webb had the audacity to challenge top government officials with the truth. Mocked and condemned by those same government agencies, not to mention important newspapers around the country, he was eventually professionally and personally destroyed.

The movie centers on events in 1996, and there are a number of very good performances. In particular, Oliver Platt does an expected fine job as he impersonates the publisher of Mr. Webb’s paper, a guy concerned with both the truth and the paper’s reputation. Mary Elizabeth Winstead appears as Mr. Webb’s editor, and one of the strengths of the film comes from the fear and concern appearing in the newsroom. At times, it was almost like watching the Washington Post boys struggle over the Watergate story.

From the title of the film, you pretty much know what is going to happen to Mr. Webb in the end. You rarely challenge the American government and expect to survive like Woodward and Bernstein. God forbid if any daring reporter has the courage to peek around the curtain to inform the American public on what is happening with our government.

What happened to TV news? Where is a modern-day Walter Cronkite? Must we live in a world where “fair and balanced” means little more than giving us the actual news accompanied by an opinion as to why we should ignore it?