Saturday, February 11, 2006

[DVD] Shattered Glass (2003)

Hayden Christensen is best known currently for this role as Anakin Skywalker in the new Star Wars Trilogy, and if you're up for some other movie starring this relative newcomer, then Shattered Glass would be the movie for you. Along the lines of recent corporate scandals, and in many movies made about them like Rouge Trader, this movie recounts what happened in a magazine called The New Repubilc where its editorial integrity was taken a knock in 1998.

The New Republic is one of thousands of magazine publications in the USA, but the only one which touts itself as the inflight magazine of Air Force One, meaning it gets read by politicians and people who make decisions which influence public policy. Like most credible publications, it has a respectable history, and prides itself with the uncanny knack of unearthing the careers of its young reporters.

Stephen Glass (Christensen) is one such young rising upstart, someone who can do no wrong, and is very popular amongst the staff of The New Republic with his seemingly endless "lobangs" and eye for certain stories. However, Glass has all along been exploiting a loophole in the editorial process to have his articles printed, and that is the submitting of his own notes for events he seemingly covered, and the creation of countless of supporting lies to cover up his initial lie of having been there, with the creation of fictitious names, events, quotes, organizations, and even voice mails, websites and fake business cards and email addresses.

Until one day, Forbes magazine online had a story to follow up from New Republic, and their checks turn out some surprising results. From here, the pace quickens, as New Republic's new editor Chuck Lane tries to probe more into Glass' misdeeds. And what's interesting is how office politics is used to sway rational opinion on what needed to be done with a misbehaving staff.

Peter Sarsgaard has had a pretty busy 2005 with supporting roles in Jarhead, Flightplan and Skeleton Key. I believe he's certainly growing to be a method character actor, with awards long overdue. Here, he plays a man who was air-dropped into the editor's hot seat, thus not being popular with the staff. He has to balance between keeping the magazine afloat when this crisis breaks, and yet having to keep his other staff in place pending unpopular decision he has to make on Glass.

But to the keen-eyed observer, scenes between Sarsgaard and Christensen really looked like much of the banter between Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, for some reason, with the former's slight resemblance to Ewan McGregor, and the latter's portrayal of the whiny and helpless Glass whose hand was caught inside the cookie jar.

At the end of the day, it's always the truth that will set you free. Covering up is only contributing the problem by making it snowball into something that can't be managed. It's a good reminder in these times which we live in, where the call for transparency and proper corporate governance take centerstage.

The Code 1 DVD contains an audio commentary by the director and real life editor Chuck Lane, but the real gem is the actual 60 Minutes interview with the real Steve Glass, and listening to him tell the story in his own words.

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