Monday, October 13, 2014


In 1996, American investigative reporter Gary Webb stumbled upon, and uncovered CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking into the United States. It was the story of a lifetime which would ultimately undo his career, marriage, and possibly could have cost him his life. It was an important, yet often forgotten part of U.S. history, brought now to light by director Michael Cuesta and his new film, KILL THE MESSENGER.
Small-time investigative newspaper journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), travels the world to uncover the truth behind the CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking into the U.S., and keeps his investigations going despite attention which threatens his career, family, and life.

KILL THE MESSENGER is put together very much in the spirit of the king of journalist/espionage movies, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976). Only this time, the film goes a step further and shows the important aftermath of the big uncovering. KILL THE MESSENGER is basically divided into two parts; the first focusing on Webb’s relentless investigation, and the second on the unraveling of his career as his story and facts are called into question. The first-half of the film is incredibly engaging; a near-perfect procedural investigation story taking us to various corners of the world and introducing us to many shady characters in and out of our own country. The second-half is equally important, as Webb’s credibility is called into question as pressure from a denying U.S. Government mounts and his sources begin to deny ever talking to him. As well as the film operates in getting your attention and holding onto it, it stumbles a little in the character department. Director Michael Cuesta keeps his main character a little distant and just out of arms reach. Although a lot of time is spent on Webb and his family before and after the discrediting, the main character is only explored just enough. What we get does work, but it could have been a little more as we don’t once weep for him when his troubles rise higher and higher.
The lightness in character can be forgiven, because KILL THE MESSENGER clearly wants the plot to take precedence. A great deal of work is put into the factual occurrences to make what could have been a very hard plot to follow easy to understand. Great detail can be seen in the surroundings, and a lot of fine work is put into the usage of archival footage. From a technical standpoint, KILL THE MESSENGER is masterfully put together.

Jeremy Renner is outstanding from beginning to end. He shoulders the burden of carrying the film on his back perfectly in having to wear many hats; a father, husband, family man, reporter, and broken man. His character has many ups and downs through the film and he sells it every time. The rest of the large cast is balanced and perfectly cast; Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Paz Vega, Oliver Platt, Richard Schiff, Robert Patrick, Tim Blake Nelson,  and Michael K. Williams are all excellent.
KILL THE MESSENGER doesn’t have much of an emotional arc, nor does have a large climax. It’s an odd way to wrap the film and it feels like something is missing once the credits roll. But considering the true-story source material being explored, there probably wasn’t much that could have been done without putting a standard Hollywood-spin on it. KILL THE MESSENGER doesn’t seem to care if we go through an emotional journey, but instead wants us to take in a history lesson which should outrage and enlighten us…and that is a mission accomplished.


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