Witnessing Kill the Messenger, I think that we have just witnessed the first Oscar nominee for Best Actor with the performance by Jeremy Renner.
Renner is Gary Webb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who exposed one of the darkest and most dangerous secrets that our government wanted hidden. What made matters worse about this true story is that Webb’s reward for bringing this blight to life was that he was tag teamed and destroyed by a twin tower of government power and media savvy.
The major newspapers of the world (Washington Post, L.A. Times) were pissed that this small(er) town newspaper reporter scored the scoop and did everything they could to discredit him. And their support in that effort came from the one and only CIA -- who themselves were just slightly upset that he found evidence to support the fact that they got into the drug business to raise money to fight communism.
Yup, the crack epidemic on our inner city streets was inadvertently started because of the CIA, Webb found. Yeah, that ought to go over well in South Central LA and other communities!
Needless to say, between both behemoths, he was personally destroyed and Kill the Messenger is his story. It is also one of the most perfect movie titles we have ever seen.
How Webb stumbles on this story is well documented, although not well known. We could not be more thrilled that Kill the Messenger has been made so that there is some sort of justice and vindication for what Webb went through. How he got his sources together and how he put together this massive story that could have (and should have) brought down our government is documented brilliantly and succinctly by writer Peter Landesman and director Michael Cuesta.
The media sought to undermine Webb’s reporting on the issue (which was one of the sharper spokes in the Iran-Contra scandal wheel). And it worked -- much of the weight of what he wrote about in his article chronicling this scandal has been lost on the public consciousness. Landesman and Cuesta had a monumental task of taking something that was incredibly complicated, shady and frankly dangerous, and boiling it down to a two hour film that was informative and, yes, entertaining.
Our Kill the Messenger review finds that the film has heaps of both.
Renner is mesmerizing and the more this story goes on, the more frustrated and downright angry the audience will get. That is largely because of the truth behind the war of personal destruction and the crimes that were committed by our government. But it is also because of how Renner plays it as it happens. He has the truth on his side and in the end -- that means nothing. It is beyond upsetting, but it is also supremely powerful.
Yes, Renner deserves an Oscar nod for Kill the Messenger and he is not the only one. Because of the incredible job they both do, look for a directing nod for Cuesta and an adapted screenplay nomination for Landesman.
Then there is Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays Gary’s wife Sue. She bore the homefront brunt of what Webb goes through and the actress gives a performance that is absolutely the best of her career. She could have been a cardboard cut-out character, the movie wife, but instead there is a real heart and soul there that makes what happens to Webb and his family a true American tragedy.