Kill the Messenger

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(2014) ★★★★

Sky Movies Premiere: PREMIERE Friday 11 December, 9.45am and 22.00pm

In the history of the Academy Awards, no Best Picture winner has ever taken less money at the box office than The Hurt Locker. Which might help explain why Jeremy Renner’s riveting Oscar and Bafta-nominated performance didn’t make him a big star. Mind you, he didn’t do much to help himself. Accepting supporting roles in Ben Affleck’s The Town (another Oscar nod) and Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol is fair enough. Taking the lead in the leaden Bourne Legacy ‘reboot’ was bad luck.

But signing on for the negligible Hawkeye role in Marvel’s Avengers franchise and following up with Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters was bad advice. He’s back acting in Kill the Messenger, playing Gary Webb, the real-life journalist who broke a sensational story in a provincial California paper – the San Jose Mercury News – in the mid-90s. The CIA, he claims in a series called Dark Alliance, laundered billions in blood money to fund a war Congress didn’t want by flooding south central LA and other American cities with drugs to buy guns for the Contras in Nicaragua.

The official line: It’s too sensitive to go into and anyway it never happened. A smear campaign goes into overdrive. The Washington Post meekly accepts Langley’s version, the Los Angeles Times – furious at missing such a scoop – spends all its energy on discrediting Webb’s sources. As senator Michael Sheen tells Webb: “Some stories are just too true to tell.” Taking the focus off the facts and turning it into gossip, the media makes Webb the subject of the story, not the CIA. Kill the Messenger tells a shocking, grubby story. Depressing as hell, it’s a hard sell and it confirms your worst suspicions about the gutless state of the media in the decades since Watergate.

Homeland director Michael Cuesta sets up Webb’s conspiracy trip with a minimum of fuss and a modicum of wit (when Renner shows up at the courthouse in San Francisco, the music echoes the percussive jazz of Lalo Schifrin’s Dirty Harry score). Renner’s Webb is no saint, but he’s not the sinner here. He believes in due process, even for drug dealers (“Alleged drug dealers,” as their attorneys are always quick to point out). “Are you a friend, Mr Webb?” asks imprisoned drug baron Andy Garcia. Renner takes a beat: “I’m not an enemy.” He’s a reporter.

A small-time operator who’s stumbled on to a huge story that no one wants to touch. “National security and crack cocaine in the same sentence,” he says to attorney Tim Blake Nelson. “Does that not sound strange to you?” The film loses steam once it’s turned into a soap opera but, hey, that’s what happened. “Nobody wants to hear your sad story, Gary,” says shady source Ray Liotta. Ain’t that the truth! Webb’s discredited version of events was eventually borne out by Langley but by then the American public couldn’t have cared less. They were more interested in another stain on White House credibility. The CIA report confirming Webb’s account was published on the day the Monica Lewinski story broke. The whole world’s watching – and, as usual, it’s looking the wrong way.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 108min

IMDB – Kill the Messenger

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Rotten Tomatoes – Kill the Messenger

Other Showings Date & Time
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 12 December at 11:30AM
Sky Movies Premiere Saturday, 12 December at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 13 December at 9:45AM
Sky Movies Premiere Sunday, 13 December at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 14 December at 11:30AM
Sky Movies Premiere Monday, 14 December at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 15 December at 3:45PM
Sky Movies Premiere Tuesday, 15 December at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 16 December at 9:45AM
Sky Movies Premiere Wednesday, 16 December at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 17 December at 9:45AM
Sky Movies Premiere Thursday, 17 December at 8:00PM
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Tuesday, 22 December at 1:00PM
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Tuesday, 22 December at 9:00PM
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Monday, 28 December at 10:45AM
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Monday, 28 December at 10:00PM
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Saturday, 2 January at 12:40PM
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Saturday, 2 January at 9:00PM