Movie Review: Kill the messenger – Dramatic political thriller

Film: Kill the messenger

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, Michael Sheehan

Director: Martin Cuesta

It’s sad when a heroic journalist stakes his life for a story and loses it. His life, I mean. All over the world, reporters have filed explosive stories about corrupt government officials. Kill the Messenger tells the story of Gary Webb, a  reporter with a small newspaper San Jose Mercury News (not the Big Guns, Washington Post or New York Times) who took on the CIA in the 1980-90s.

Thanks to his sources, he had visited a Nicaragua prison to meet a criminal and later obtained a classified document that indicated the CIA looked the other way in a scheme funnelling drug-sale profits to the anti-Commie Contras in Nicaragua headed by the Pro-Soviet government of Daniel Ortega. The charges spiralled into the explosive allegation that the CIA’s off radar work was connected to the crack cocaine and marijuana trade that crippled America’s inner cities (populated by blacks/African Americans).

Webb’s stories sparked a public outcry. But he refused to back down from the stories he got from his sources in the underworld or other kabroos (as crime reporters usually do). Then, envious mainstream press (and govt spooks) went for his throat with character assassination and threats to his kids. (In India as some parts of the world, reporters are killed, remember the senior crime journalist, J Dey, who was shot dead in Mumbai?)

Happily married father of three, Webb (Jeremy Renner) used to have a troubled personal life, but he was a throughly professional journalist. His emotionally insecure wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) is unable to forget they had relocated to San Jose because of his affair with a colleague.

 Kill the Messenger concludes with optimism (The Society of Professional Journalists honours Webb as Journalist of the Year) and despair. (Big papers, major TV news networks and his own editors at the San Jose Mercury News back away from Webb who took his own life in 2004.) There’s footage of Ronald Reagan but none that I can recall of Lt. Col. Oliver North, the  man at the center of the Iran-Contra controversy  during the Reagan administration. Was Reagan culpable? The CIA? I don’t know. Questions, questions.

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