WRITTEN BY: Peter Landesman
DIRECTED BY: Michael Cuesta
STARRING: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt
RATING: 3.5 stars
Many of you will remember the 1996 cocaine smuggling scandal in the United States with the mysterious link to the CIA. Kill The Messenger explores what happened to Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) after he broke the controversial story for the San Jose Mercury News, including the dark fallout as his peers in the journalism community turned against him for writing an article without getting reputable sources on the record to back-up his claims. It is a fascinating and sad story about cover-ups and journalistic integrity.
What Webb uncovered was that the CIA had helped the Nicaraguan Contras smuggle cocaine into the United States during Ronald Reagan's presidency. Webb was about a decade late to investigate the case, but that did not stop him from digging deeper than any other journalist before him. Unfortunately, Webb's work was flawed and that gave skeptics enough to tear his story apart while the authorities continued to deny everything.
Renner does a good job of portraying Webb as a man intent on revealing the ugly truth no matter the cost. Webb is presented as a sympathetic character, though I am not sure how accurate that may be. As if to push the point that Webb was badly treated, the film focuses a lot on his personal life, especially regarding his relationship with his wife and oldest son. It felt too sappy and added several unnecessary minutes to what would otherwise have been a tight film. In fact, while Rosemarie DeWitt is sweet as Webb's saintly wife, her character is totally unbelievable. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Oliver Platt play Webb's editors at the newspaper and both give solid performances. Small but pivotal roles have also been given to Andy Garcia, Michael Sheen and Ray Liotta who all add some intrigue with their complex characters.
Kill the Messenger is a good film. Unfortunately, in our post-WikiLeaks world, such a scandal about government cover-ups is hardly surprising today.