Runtime : 112 min
Genre : Biography | Crime | Drama
Movie Release : 9 October 2014 (Hungary)
Director: Michael Cuesta
Writers: Peter Landesman, Gary Webb (book).
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Robert Patrick, Jena Sims
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.
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Winston Churchill
Gary Webb suffered 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 muckraker, he pursued the truth writing for the San Jose Mercury News and, naturally, incurred the wrath of the feds.
While nothing is surprising given the fame of the incident, director Michael Cuesta approaches this “inspired-by” biopic also as a thriller with dramatic underpinnings. The film allows us to be caught up in the drama of a reporter catching a big one, only to have the fish the size of Moby Dick. As Webb tries to hold on to his family, despite warnings they are vulnerable, we go deeper with him into the frustrations of cowardly colleagues and questionable contacts, who stand ready to compromise the integrity of his series called Dark Alliance.
The specter of All the President’s Men haunts most stories about idealistic journalists, and it is no different here. 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), 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.
After all Webb’s investigations, nothing is more explosive than his allegations that this cocaine trafficking was responsible for the crack crisis in large cities like Los Angeles. Major newspapers like The New York Times went after Webb and his imperfect reporting. His editor said, “We couldn’t support some of the statements that had been made.”
Eventually Webb committed suicide even though the CIA had admitted involvement or at least knowledge of the trafficking. The pursuit of truth for reporters is not easy, nor has the well-known adage of killing the messenger abated in the least. This film is as exciting as any thriller, and just as depressing.
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