365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Kill the Messenger (2014)

After stints in movies that have limited his ability to showcase his range (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy), the talented Jeremy Renner returns to the type of film that has helped establish him as one of America's best, under the radar actors. With Academy Award nominations in back to back years (The Hurt Locker - Best Actor, The Town - Best Supporting actor), Renner brings his acting prowess back to the big screen for the first time in four years in Michael Cuesta's (Showtime's HomelandKill the Messenger.  While researching this movie, I have come to learn that Renner is signed to continue the Bourne, Mission Impossible, and Avengers franchises. Now while I'm never going to chastise an actor for getting as much money as he/she can, it would be my wish that he exit two of these three series (the Bourne series is tired and played out and his character isn't really needed in the Mission Impossible franchise) and concentrate on roles that bring out more of the actor in him. He would still have The Avengers movies for name recognition and bigger paydays. I just feel like this man has a handful of Academy Award nominations (and hopefully a couple of wins) in his future if continues tackling these more character driven movies.

This is the true story of Gary Webb (Renner) a reporter for the San Jose Mercury who falls into some good luck when he is given a lead about some concealed information that says that the United States Central Intelligence Agency knowingly brought cocaine in from Nicaragua (using the same means of transportation that brought weapons from here to there) and sold the drugs on the streets to help fund the Contra war in Nicaragua during the 1980's. This conflict was not supported by Ronald Reagan and thus the CIA had to raise funds to fight the war elsewhere. A direct insinuation of this, which the CIA was obviously going to do whatever it took to cover up, was that this led to a crack epidemic on the streets of urban cities like Los Angeles.

The movie takes place in 1996. It has been more than seven years since the Contra War ended with the signing of the Tela Accord.and the demobilization of the Sandinista National Liberation Front and Contra armies. Webb is in the right place at the right time when he is approached by a woman who, in exchange for him appearing as an interested party at the court hearing of her boyfriend, is given some files that the public was never intended to see. Quickly, the skillful, intelligent, and fearless Webb is able to piece together a connection between the cocaine being brought into the United States and sold to major drug dealers known by the CIA (who then sold the cocaine on the streets and made junkies out of a lot of people) in a means of assuring the rebels fighting in Nicaragua were properly armed. Now before we move on, there are two parts of this that are really, not just head scratchers, but almost impossible to believe. The first is why would the CIA knowingly ever take part in this? The second is how could they possibly ever think that they could get away with it? Well you might wonder know Did they do it and did they get away with it? I am not going to ruin the movie for you by answering that question though some readers of this blog and viewers of this movie will know the entire story ahead of time. I, for one, did not.

It's funny to think that this story came out half a decade after the event. The criticisms of Webb even in 1996, I feel, would almost be non-existent today. By this I mean there was so much research put into this story before it came out and even more research had to be done afterwards. Still, Webb and the San Jose Mercury were heavily scrutinized for its initial coverage and follow-up of this story. They broke the news and it seemed like The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times were intent on bringing them down because they hadn't sniffed even a whiff of the story. Back then, if you broke a story, it seemed like you had to have a list of sources to verify what you were saying. Today, because of the easy of posting information, it really does seem like anybody can post about anything without any sort of real consequences. Granted, if you work for a major news company, maybe that isn't the case as much, but I certainly believe that the same journalist integrity that existed in the in the 20th century is not there today.

Webb did his due diligence in researching the story. He talked to people everywhere and even traveled to Nicaragua to verify his sources. The problem was that the CIA wanted to bury this story and, as is stated many of times during the course of the movie, it is the job of the CIA to not speak. So even though Webb had sources and had documents, he still had not a single former member of the CIA who could corroborate his story. The current members of the CIA, as well as other newspapers, tried to discredit him, all in an attempt to silence him. He and his family were threatened. His former skeletons were dragged out of the closet. Webb was far from a perfect person, but he was a credible reporter. The attempts to ruin his career and his personal life were unfounded and unfair. The bully tactics that we try so hard today to eliminate were on full display. There was nothing that was held back in an attempt to destroy the man who refused to leave alone a story that needed to be told. But Webb refused to back down even when his own newspaper, including his editor Jerry (Oliver Platt - Flatliners, Love and Other Drugstold him to let the story go. He believed in his story when no one else did. It was both his finest moment and his tragic flaw.

Also, if you haven't had a chance to check out any of Renner's previous work, I recommend you do so. There is so much more to him than the blockbuster movies he has associated himself with in recent years. I feel like anybody could play Hawkeye from The Avengers, but only a few actors could play a Gary Webb or Staff Sgt. William James (The Hurt Locker).

Great matinee movie.

Plot 9/10
Character Development 8/10
Character Chemistry 8/10
Acting 9.5/10
Screenplay 9.5/10
Directing  9/10
Cinematography 9/10 (mid 90's in full effect)
Sound 8.5/10
Hook and Reel 9/10 (a taut thriller without the need of guns or violence...keeps you engaged throughout)
Universal Relevance 9/10 (an important story that should be told...maybe earlier than 2014...possibly not needed for the big screen)

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