Synopsis – A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide after he exposes the CIA’s role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb.
My Take – This film follows Gary Webb’s unfortunately ture story which has been told so artfully recounted and performed. The movie is about the true story of Gary Webb’s article that suggest the CIA were evolved with drug dealing as a way to fund a war in the 1980’s, but as the title of the movie described the people read the article and ran with their own conspiracies which lead to a CIA cover up that lead to Webb’s downward spiral. The film focuses on Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) suffering greatly for writing about the CIA’s enabling drug selling on US streets to fund the Nicaraguan contras in the ’90’s. As a sincere but flawed reporter, he pursued the truth writing for the San Jose Mercury News and, naturally, incurred the wrath of the feds. He was accused of distorting the actuality of Reagan-era hypocrisy, but his reporting was accurate.
He never accused the CIA of intentionally destroying the social fabric of minority communities, but made it clear that Harlem and Watts and Chicago’s South Side were victims of collateral damage. Webb is a dedicated, overzealous journalist who seeks the truth while fulfilling his natural-born inclination to cause trouble. As such, his publisher, Jerry Ceppos (Oliver Platt), & Editor (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) must deal with the CIA’s and prominent news organizations’ allegations about Webb’s uneven reporting, which jeopardizes the reputation of his newspaper because of his sometimes questionable conclusions from dicey sources and the incendiary nature of the allegations, including how much money actually made it to the contras or how large the drug operations were.The film ultimately centralizes around reporter and what happens to him when he comes across this shocking discovery. The film attempts to portray Gary Webb in his domestic, familial role as a loving though humanly “flawed” father of 3 children, with a supportive loving wife (Rosemarie De Witt) all in danger. Jeremy Renner is the star of this story, and he performs excellently. Renner fully commits into becoming Webb. Besides decently looking like the real Webb physically, he captures a wide range of emotions that the man would have faced – from being a cool reporter to a struggling and scared husband and father. Oliver Platt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Rosemarie De Witt provide good support. Eventhough the film is clunky at times, but the film totally benefits having Jeremy Renner. Even at its weakest scenes, the actor tend to bring real depth and tension, joining the audience to what his role is going through. Director Michael Cuesta has a clear goal of what he wants the film to be about – Gary Webb.
While not all the scenes succeed in contributing to that, the majority of it is cohesive enough to let audiences understand the characters without losing the intensity and action of the larger picture – the cocaine smuggling. On the whole “Kill the Messenger” is both a very gripping film and an important film. It works when it finally acknowledges that the government is now their enemy and building suspense behind Webb’s back, but when it focuses to the drama of his personal life, it doesn’t seem to fit on the pieces, however whatever made it still thoroughly watchable, again, is the acting of Renner. This is the type of merit that steals much of the value of the film, even if it’s flawed in storytelling, the appeal just keeps on going. Jeremy Renner and the director together bring a lot to the film, and while it’s not entirely superb, it gives a good two hours of entertainment that means something, especially today. Give it watch!
Director – Michael Cuesta
Rated – R
Run Time – 112 minutes