Thursday, 15 March 2007
Shattered Glass (2003) dir Billy Ray
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny
Billy Ray (no, not that Billy Ray) says he’s a writer first and a director second, but it’s no coincidence that his two best films are the one’s he’s directed – “Shattered Glass” and “Beach” – but more on “Breach” in another review. When Billy Ray wants to write something good, he can. And he knows when to save it for himself.
“Shattered Glass” is the true story of Stephen Glass a talented young journalist from The New Republic –a snobby political magazine, dubbed the ‘in flight magazine of “Air Force One”. Most of the staff writers are under 30, idealistic extremely talented and cocky and Stephen Glass was one of the best.
Glass’ latest article is a humorous essay on a computer hacker who was employed as a security consultant by the same company whose computer system he hacked into. The article is popular and makes a name for Glass as one of the magazine’s top writers. A kink in Glass’ armour is discovered by a lowly web-writer (they didn’t have the prestige of the print journalists then) played by Steve Zaun. Zaun tries to find and follow up with the so-called hacker. But for Zaun, all roads strangely lead to nowhere. In fact, he soon discovers the article is a complete fabrication.
And so the race is on. Glass is a crafty manipulator who uses his innocence and naiveté to charm his subjects, colleagues and bosses. He has a way of turning his opponents on the defensive by saying lines like, “are you mad at me?” Glass scrambles to cover his tracks and invents more lies to explain his shoddy research and out and out fabrications. Meanwhile Zaun and his team of web-journalists seize an opportunity to take down one of industry’s most respected magazines.
The core of the story is the relationship between Glass (played well by Hayden Christensen) and his editor Charles Lane (a breakout performance by Peter Sarsgaard). Editors are supposed to support and back their writers (especially their good ones) and the crafty Glass uses these psychological tactics to turn his fellow writers against Charles. It’s masterful piece of manipulation and a great con game. Hayden perfectly plays Glass’ faux insecurities against Lane’s timidness as a new editor-in-chief.
There’s half a dozen terrific showcase scenes between Sarsgaard and Christensen. The most uncomfortable is when Lane asks Glass to actually bring him to the convention centre where Glass’s fictional hacker was hired. Glass rapidly fires off a string of lies, all of which bounce off Lane, until he finds the ultimate lie and blames the fictional kid for lying to him. It’s a brilliant exchange.
Along with recent reviews of “All the President’s Men” and “Zodiac,” “Shattered Glass” is in this league. The examination of the workmanship of a writer, their creed, ethics and dedication to their craft is far more believable than say, the nobility of 300 Spartan warriors. I’d wager money on these journalists in a scrap any day.
And good for Billy Ray. His years of hacking out scripts like “Hart’s War”, “Flightplan”, Suspect Zero” and “Volcano” went into making “Shattered Glass.” and how he kept that one for himself, I don’t know, he must have been crafty… Enjoy.
Buy it here:Shattered Glass