‘Kill the Messenger’: Get the message out


It’s the rare journalism movie that gets it right when it comes to depicting the day-to-day on a daily newspaper.

And, given the terminal condition of American print, journalism movies themselves are going to become an endangered species – sort of like newspapers.

So it’s nice to see a movie like “Kill the Messenger” get it right. In telling this true story, director Michael Cuesta and writer Peter Landesman not only recount a scandal and an injustice; they also capture a cusp moment, just before the Internet tsunami roared in, changing the news-gathering landscape forever.

It’s 1996 and Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) is an investigative reporter – remember those? – at the San Jose Mercury News. One day he gets a tip that leads him to the loose thread of what could be a major story – and then he pulls it.

What he unravels is a conspiracy from 10 years earlier, when the Reagan administration was trading arms for hostages in Iran and looking for ways to circumvent a congressional edict against supporting the Contras in Nicaragua. Webb uncovers stories from participants that the CIA had sanctioned the importing of cocaine to America, the profits of which went to buy weapons for the Contras.

His digging takes him across the country and even to Nicaragua, where he talks to the drug smugglers who were on the CIA radar, but were given a pass. His story earns him a bunch of awards – and intense pushback from the CIA.

This review continues on my website.

Back to Top