Based on the book of the same name, Kill The Messenger tells the true story of Gary Webb, a journalist working for a small time newspaper, who stumbles upon a huge story. Having recently written a piece on how some drug dealers have had their homes taken away from them without due process, he’s contacted by a femme fatale-type character, who sends him on the path of a much bigger story. Webb discovers that the CIA have, in the past, been involved in the importation of cocaine from Nicaragua, which was subsequently sold in the ghetto’s of California, in an attempt to fund the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army. After publishing the story in the form of a book named Dark Alliance, it isn’t long before Webb becomes subject to a smear campaign by the government and other national newspapers, and he even begins to fear that his life is in danger.
There’s a moment in Kill The Messenger, where federal prosecutor Fred Well, played by Michael Sheen, tells Gary Webb, played by Jeremy Renner, that “some stories are just too true to tell”. This statement perfectly sums up the problem with the film itself, which struggles to balance its creative licence, whilst presenting the story as it actually happened. The film starts off as a paranoid political thriller, cemented by the use of Richard Nixon in its opening moments. There are moments where shadowy figures lurk outside Webb’s home; where unnamed government officials attempt to root through Webb’s private files; where Webb may, or may not have somebody following him in a car park. This first hour, when we get this brief pieces of tension, is when Kill The Messenger works best. However, as the film draws to its conclusion, there’s much more of a focus on the character and private life of Webb himself. It isn’t unless you know the full story, or until the films ending, that you understand why the film-makers have made it that way. They’re absolutely right to do so, but I still couldnt help but feel that the film is a bit anti-climatic in this sense.
That isn’t to say that Kill The Messenger is a terrible film in the slightest. I liked the direction of Michael Cuesta, and Jeremy Renner, who I can’t help but associate with his lame Hawkeye character, reminds us of how well he can actually act. The biggest thing you’ll take away from the film though, is the shocking true story at the centre of it; one that isn’t just about shady government agencies, but about one person’s battle for the truth, and the maltreatment he suffered from his peers, as well as his country. It’s an important story to tell and one which is still relevant today, with hints of Edward Snowden’s story in there too. It’s a shame that the battle between fact vs fiction, holds Kill The Messenger back from being something truly brilliant. It is an interesting and absorbing watch, but one which I don’t think will stay with you, long after watching it.
Image credit to http://www.collider.com