Strictly speaking Kill The Messenger was released in 2014 but it was only released in 2015 here in the UK so (sound of raspberry being blown) there. The film is directed by Michael Cuesta who has a much bigger reputation in TV than films. He has directed numerous episodes of Homeland and the pilot for Elementary. The film stars Jeremy Renner as a news reporter for a small-time Californian newspaper, Gary Webb, who finds himself digging into the illegal behaviour of the CIA in South America. His discoveries put him on the wrong end of a campaign to destroy his reputation.
The film is based on a real life story that took place in the mid to late ’90’s. Unusually for a film these days there are no flashbacks, dream sequences or time travel. The movie starts at point A and finishes at Point B. My first takeaway from the film was that I was finally sold on Jeremy Renner as a leading man. I had been underwhelmed by his roles in The Bourne Legacy (2012) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe but in Kill The Messenger he holds everything together.
The real story in this movie is not the investigation he undertakes into CIA corruption but the reaction to the report he files. It’s the behind the scenes pressure put on Webb’s sources, other newspaper’s links to the Government and rivals looking to undermine his story because they didn’t get the scoop. His personal life gets turned over for past deeds that can be used against him and his family life starts to suffer. It’s appalling to think that there are people in the world that are willing to destroy an individual and those around him in order to cover-up their activities.
Kill The Messenger is the second close but no cigar film I have seen this week following hot on the heels of Chappie (2015). Where the film falls down is that it doesn’t focus closely enough on the fall out from the printing of the story exposing the CIA. This is the part that has the drama and the emotion but at times the movie merely hints at what is going on. I would have liked to have seen more of the behind the scenes at the big newspapers and had those story lines fleshed out.
I think the source material for this film could be a fascinating read. For the record the film draws on two books; Dark Alliance (1998) written by Gary Webb himself and Kill The Messenger (2006) by Nick Schou. The film hasn’t received much publicity but I think it’s worth checking out, especially if you are passionate about journalism and free speech. My rating 3/5.