The story of the witch-hunt has endlessly retold, usually laden with the same self-satisfied 20/20 hindsight that afflicts stories of the civil rights movement, and fortunately Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov see no need to go through it all again. With admirable precision, they've sliced away most all the accoutrements often used to open up the era for the modern viewer, ala Quiz Show. This is a film that takes place almost entirely inside a CBS studio and newsroom, with occasional trips to hallways, elevators, and a network executive's wood-paneled office. Once, they all go out to a bar. It's best in the studio, because that's where we find Murrow - incarnated with almost indecent accuracy by David Strathairn - looking and sounding like as though Rod Serling had decided to rejoin the human race, his manner clipped and astringent, cigarette cocked in one hand like a talisman warding off evil.
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At the same time, Ladder and its creators make no bones about the fact that the film is pushing our emotional buttons. It manipulates our heart strings and tugs at our tear ducts in its quest for inspirational cinema. Admittedly, it's a bit slick and overdone, but it's difficult to fault a picture that wears its intentions on its soot-stained sleeve and holds the serviceman position of firefighter on such a lofty pedestal.
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