Shattered Glass (2003)
Warning: Your viewing experience can be absolutely exceptional if you watch knowing nothing about this film’s plot or the real events it depicts. That, in my opinion, is the best kind of movie watching and this film deserves that sort of attention. Suffice it to say that this is a rewarding two hours and if you have not already seen it you should stop reading immediately and go rent this. Right now.
At the dawn of the internet there’s The New Republic – referred to as the in-flight magazine of Air Force One. Its youngest reporter, Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), is the man. He always knows just what cards to play, what compliment to throw and what joke to tell to be loved, admired, and respected by everyone. He’s charming, he’s witty, he’s unfallingly polite, and he’s on every other magazine’s hot list.
Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) is the new editor of the acclaimed magazine and he’s got it rough after replacing the beloved Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria). When the news team of the online newspaper Forbes Digital brings to light potential discrepancies in Glass’s recent article “Hack Heaven”, Lane is faced with the gruelling challenge of getting to the bottom of it. Sarsgaard received a Golden Globe nom for best supporting actor in this role and he is, indeed, phenomenal. Scene after scene he hits it without a single misstep, though I am partial to a rather stirring moment near the end in which he coolly storms into the building wearing his black leather jacket, perfectly timed to Mychael Danna’s magnificent score.
The story is nothing short of fascinating. Layer upon layer it sucks you into its web of possible lies and deceit. It raises some important questions about journalistic ethics, though it may not answer the ultimate question of “what is driving this kid?” It’s a complex character study with no real rhyme or reason to his actions because pathological liars don’t always have reasons. It gets even better after it’s over and you can find out for yourself just how accurate the film’s events were, and more importantly how accurate Christensen’s performance was. Say what you want about this kid and Star Wars, but he is excellent in Shattered Glass. You may argue that he’s just as whiny as ever but this time it fits his character. Or perhaps you think he’s finally found his niche. Either way, he’s great – so I wouldn’t give up on him just yet. Featured on our DVD copy is the “60 Minutes” interview with the real Stephen Glass and after watching that I can safely say that Darth Vader hit it right on the mark.
Other notable performances go to Hank Azaria, Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, and Steve Zahn in his small role (I could watch that guy in anything). The acting isn’t the film’s only strength, though. First time director Billy Ray creates a riveting drama that captivates its audience better than any other movie I’ve seen in years. It deserves a place right next to All the President’s Men as the greatest journalism movies ever made with a perfect, witty script and a satisfying end to boot.
I could watch this movie a thousand times, it’s that sharp. 10/10
“If it was sunny outside and Steve and I were both standing outside in the sun and Steve came to me and said, ‘It’s a sunny day,’ I would immediately go check with two other people to make sure it was a sunny day.” ~Chuck Lane on Stephen Glass