Kill the Messenger Blu-ray Review
KILL THE MESSENGER speaks to me on a very personal level. As a journalist and taking many ethics classes in journalism in college, it’s difficult to watch a movie where an investigative reporter is slowly torn apart. It’s heartbreaking and brave at the same time watching Gary Webb (Renner). It’s message harkens back to the famous New York Times V. U.S. case, which is a benchmark in the freedom of the press. I guess if you wanted to connect the dots, you could even make the case that it’s an afterthought that touches upon the case of Edward Snowden. Regardless, KILL THE MESSENGER will hold a special place in my heart.
KILL THE MESSENGER is a snapshot into the life of Webb during his investigative piece for the San Jose Mercury News called the “Dark Alliance”. It put forth the thesis, which later turned out to be true, that the CIA was supporting cocaine trafficking into the U.S. to help fund efforts against the Nicaraguan government. Contra Rebels were benefitting from this shady deal and gladly talked to Webb about their misdeeds. The correlation is made by others, and not Webb, that this eventually led to the crack epidemic in Los Angeles during the mid-90’s.
Now the movie is not that technical in its tale. It begins with how Webb is a very thorough and dedicated reporter. He spends long nights huffing on cigarettes and pouring over stacks of documents, just to whittle down the information he’s digesting into a couple of paragraphs or blurb on the newspaper. “Dark Alliance” could be considered his masterpiece since he travels to Nicaragua, meets with assault weapon toting goons, and almost like a tourist, walks leisurely around the seedy back alleyways of Los Angeles to speak with drug dealers.
Renner adds an emotional depth to Webb by showing a face of determination on the job and a face adrift in a sea of household drama when he’s away from the hustle and bustle. He’s trying to connect with a son who’s wading through a pool of puberty and dealing with a wife who’s slowly becoming disinterested and untrusting of him. It only makes sense that Webb is a flawed hero. Dedication to one’s craft and a pursuit of the truth could take an emotional toll on anyone who has to juggle a home life and overbearing job. While Webb is someone who cheats on his wife, he clearly struggles with what he does and doesn’t like the husband and father he’s becoming. He could easily blame the job and quit, but his passion is so inflamed, he can only suffer while he vigorously fulfills his journalistic duty.
Of course the acting performances all around are stellar and it’s a surprise that this ensemble cast of “there’s that guy from that one thing” didn’t draw a bigger audience. KILL THE MESSENGER doesn’t necessarily have the firepower like other political thrillers. That may be because at the heart of it all is a broken man who keeps getting kicked down. The angle of him being an unfaithful husband may also be off-putting to viewers.
I’m ultimately saddened that KILL THE MESSENGER didn’t get enough attention because this is an important movie. It’s easy to forget that people and entities will always be on the defense and plotting to cover a lie with a lie when their misdeeds have been uncovered. It still happens to this day. Just look up the poor case of New York Times reporter James Risen. In an era where we’re constantly being told that our privacy and freedoms are important, those who have the most power to gain and lose, still get their feathers ruffled by those doing their job. Amongst the 24 hour news cycle garbage and cute kitten videos, there are plenty of people like Gary Webb fighting for the truth.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) From lush jungle to basements only illuminated by dim desk lamps, everything comes in crystal clear on this blu-ray.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The mixing of suspenseful music along with unsettling ambience is spot on.
Deleted Scenes (9:05): There are six deleted scenes that you can play individually or play all. It comes with director’s commentary that is interesting because it’s an explanation of why it was removed.
Kill the Messenger: The All-Star Cast (2:31): It’s a very short feature with the cast hyping up the movie and hyping up each other’s performances.
Crack in America (2:51): A bit of a misguided feature that highlights one of the minor characters, and the person it’s based on, that starts Gary on the path towards finding out the crack story.
Filming in Georgia (2:09): This is a discussion about where they shot the movie. It basically starts out with them saying they chose Georgia because it was cheap, so they set the tone early.
Feature Commentary with Director Michael Cuesta: I’m not a big fan of solo commentaries because it feels void of fun. It also has lots of pauses while the director decides what would be of interest to talk about. There’s a couple of moments when he discusses parts about Webb’s real life and particular scenes within the movie.