Kyle J. Steenblik

Kill The Messenger was intriguing, complex, and a little dry.

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kill_the_messengerKill The Messenger was intriguing and compelling.  Its basis in truth lends much to the story, grounding the film.  It is apparent that while some events and characters may have been enhanced to improve the narrative for entertainment value, the extent of that exaggeration was reasonable and I did not feel the integrity of the story was compromised.  What this film ultimately will leave a receptive audience with are questions with no concrete answers.  This is a good thing for a film whose subject is an investigative reporter, and the events that lead to the collapse of his career as a journalist.

Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) was a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for the San Jose Mercury News when a remarkable story falls in his lap.  This story, which became an exposé called Dark Alliance, revealed the origins of the US crack epidemic and its link to the CIA.  Webb uncovered information that would lead to allegations that the CIA was aware of large cocaine smuggling operations used to finance rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s.  The film chronicles Webb’s struggle in his investigation that lead him from the streets of Washington DC and Los Angeles to the jungles and prisons of Nicaragua.  His investigation draws harsh professional criticism as he was discredited by the CIA, and endangered his and his family’s lives, ultimately ending his career as a journalist.

This film ends with no concrete conclusion, exiting the fictionalized accounts abruptly with additional information about Gary Webb, the events surrounding his death, and the results of his work.  This transition is jarring, pulling the audience forcefully out of the film back into reality.  The lack of subtlety in this initially put me off, until I realized this was used to editorialize and contextualize the rest of the film.  It was a harsh reminder of the reality of the story, and the individuals depicted.  Without this ending, it would be far too easy to walk away from a satisfying political thriller brushing off any meaningful impact.  Instead, I was left seeking out large amounts of information to understand the subject better, making this one of the most effective “true story” films I have ever seen.

If I were to judge this film strictly on its entertainment value, it would fall short.  While the characters were interesting enough, and Jeremy Renner was dynamic.  The pacing of the story was too inconsistent relying on Renner to carry the film from event to event at times.  This works, but only barely, and left me peeking at my watch more than once.  There was some pleasant cinematography but as a whole, it was unobtrusive and uninteresting.

Overall, this was a highly effective film, the editorialization and contextualization at the end of the film tied the thematic elements together.  While at times, over-romanticizing investigative journalism the realism of the story was well represented.  4 out of 5.


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