To chase down the conspiracy, Russell Crowe’s veteran reporter teams up with a callow blogger (the ever-perky Rachel McAdams of “Wedding Crashers”). Much banter about the rivalry between print and online journalism ensues. Yet the movie misses the key personality difference between traditional media and the more Aspergery culture of the Web: newspaper reporters converse constantly, while Web people prefer Google to human contact. Young Matthew Yglesias, for instance, recently declared on his blog, “Definitely the whole time I was employed at The Atlantic I never once returned a voicemail. … In general, I’m not a fan of talking on the phone ...”
The movie portrays Crowe’s aging reporter as a solitary man, trudging alone to confront the powerful in their lairs. In reality, as Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop made clear, traditional reporters are most comfortable in packs, where they can gauge what’s “appropriate” to ask and to write from the consensus of their colleagues.
Just when the strident soundtrack (synthesizers and militaristic drums relentlessly barking “Tense up!”) and now-mandatory Shaky-Cam cinematography have almost ruined a decent if predictable story, an amusingly florid Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) shows up as a hedonistic public relations consultant, seemingly to contrast the greed of the flack with the nobility of the crusading journalist. The film’s countless screenwriters, though, are aware that reporters, such as the New York Times’ Judith Miller, who pipelined so much pro-Iraq war propaganda, are often just more respectable PR agents, publicizing messages in return for access to newsmakers.
From there, the movie keeps departing from its earlier Vast Corporate Conspiracy rut, ending with a plot twist that, while contrived, is surprisingly realistic.
April 25, 2009
From my review in The American Conservative: