Jeremy Renner has had a very interesting career in the film industry. His first notable role was in the 1995 theater-released National Lampoon’s Senior Trip. From there he went on to do guest spots on numerous television shows up until his breakout role as the villain in the 2003 film entitled S.W.A.T. Gaining even more notoriety, Renner became a true household name from starring in the 2008 Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. Now he flexing his phenomenal acting chops again in the new Michael Cuesta directed thriller Kill the Messenger.
The film is based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb. In the 1990’s Webb stumbled upon a huge U.S. government cover-up that involved The CIA arming Contra soldiers in Nicaragua and introducing vast amounts of cocaine into California’s poverty-stricken population. Even though Webb is pressured over and over to stop his investigation, he decides to keep pursuing the story to its final conclusion. The fallout of this action threatens his family, his veracity, and even his life.
Kill the Messenger is a very by-the-numbers thriller that is elevated entirely by Renner’s stellar performance. Nothing really shocked me as far as twists and turns are concerned but the way in which Renner was able to portray Gary Webb was an absolute delight to watch. He approaches the role with such vigor and persistence that for the majority of the film I actually thought that he was a real journalist. Couple that with his outward appearance of having grown-out facial hair and you will forget that Renner can be a true chameleon when he wants to be. The other stand-out performance that is worth mentioning would be from Rosemarie DeWitt who plays Webb’s wife. She is able to emote so silently yet so effectively that it tears at your heartstrings on how Webb’s pursuit of the truth is ultimately hurting his family.
Cuesta ‘s directing is fierce and raw and lends itself perfectly to portraying a man stuck between a rock and a hard place. From the perfectly framed shots, to the enthralling cuts between Webb’s investigation and what cocaine is doing to California’s population, the film doesn’t hold back on making you entirely invested in the subject matter. Although I was very young when this event occurred, having the facts portrayed in such a dynamic and appealing way makes me want to go back to that time and see how our society was handling such a gigantic government scandal.
While the film is constructed of so many positive elements, one somewhat negative element stood out and must be addressed. A side story in the film involving Webb and his son is played out to be a very crucial piece to the final conclusion. The problem however lies in the fact that we don’t get enough screen time of the two spending moments together. So when the payoff is supposed to occur later on, it ultimately feels a bit lazy and unearned. Nonetheless, that is a minor nitpick in an otherwise phenomenal film. If you are looking to learn more about our government cover-ups and be entertained at the same time, Kill the Messenger is a must-see film.
Kill the Messenger:[usr 4]
About Kill the Messenger
Synopsis: The true story on how journalist Gary Webb uncovered a U.S. government cover-up involving the CIA selling cocaine to citizens of California.
Director: Michael Cuesta
Writers: Peter Landesman, Gary Webb, Nick Schou
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Oliver Platt
Releases: Oct. 10, 2014