UK Release Date: 6th March 2015
Runtime: 112 minutes
Director: Michael Cuesta
Writer: Peter Landesman
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael K Williams, Michael Sheen, Ray Liotta
Synopsis: An ambitious news reporter uncovers an enormous drugs conspiracy that involves the American government and must battle to ensure the story is told.
Sometimes films manage to flit in and out of UK cinemas without anyone really noticing. That was certainly the case with Kill the Messenger, which managed to pass virtually everyone by without any fanfare. However, the true story it tells is well worth your time.
Local news reporter Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) stumbles upon a massive story in the midst of covering local drug crimes. He eventually uncovers the role of the US government in secretly importing crack cocaine to fund rebels in Nicaragua. Despite the initial misgivings of his editor Anna (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and wife Susan (Rosemarie DeWitt), Webb goes ahead and publishes the story, triggering a huge smear campaign against his personal and professional integrity.
It’s shocking that the true story at the heart of Kill the Messenger is not more well known. The story exposed some pretty corrupt governmental actions and the subsequent hatchet job of Gary Webb was equally despicable, engaging in ad hominem attacks rather than investigating the sensational claims of his ‘Dark Alliance’ series.
| "I thought my job was to tell the public the truth and the facts – pretty or not."
Jeremy Renner does a great job in the role of Webb. He brings a real sensitivity to the character and emphasises his dogged determination in getting the story out there. In the film’s later stages, he conveys the character’s desperation to clear his name and ultimate resignation to his professional defeat.
Equally impressive are the major female supporting players. Both Rosemarie DeWitt and Mary Elizabeth Winstead do a solid job as strong influences on Webb’s life and reporting. They are the moral arbiters who ensure that his ambition is kept in check. Kill the Messenger does an excellent job of acknowledging their role in this story as just as important as Webb’s.
The film does, however, struggle to find an engaging way to tell the story, which mainly consists of Webb wandering around and talking to people whilst scribbling in a notepad. Particularly in the middle act of Kill the Messenger, there are huge momentum drop-offs in which little of interest seems to happen.
| "Some stories are just too true to tell."
It does pick up its momentum again by the time it reaches its conclusion, in which Renner gives a wonderfully insincere acceptance speech for an award he was picked to win prior to the smear campaign. The scene, in particular, is a great showcase for Renner, who too often finds himself sidelined in films as a supporting player.
Pop or Poop?
Jeremy Renner revels in the opportunity to take a rare leading role in journalism drama Kill the Messenger, which asks questions about governmental corruption and the job of ethical journalism.
Renner’s performance is excellent, aided by solid turns from Rosemarie DeWitt and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
It loses momentum and the direction is standard stuff, but this is a film anyone interested in journalism or politics should catch.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.