Kill the Messenger tells the story of journalist Garry Webb who broke an incredibly incriminating story from his small desk at the small time San Jose Mercury news in California. Webb is played here by Jeremy Renner who appears to have a way cooler demeanor than the actual journalist he plays. He rides a motorbike, rocks a pair of cool stunners and generally looked more like a badass. That’s just by the by but Kill the Messenger is a film that will thrive on the cynicism of an audiences as the central character unearths the alleged involvement of the US government in the pumping of crack cocaine into some inner cities to fund anti-communist agendas in Nicaraguan. Webb appears to have connected the dots after what appears to be excellent investigative work taking him from American to Nicaraguan prisons and he presents his findings to America. The CIA is initially in the limelight as outrage pours at their alleged implicating involvement in the war on drugs but the film really begins when focus turns from the message to the messenger.
During his investigations, Webb is warned several times against proceeding through this door of no return as “some stories are too true to tell” and after he has his 15 minutes, including being named Journalist of the year, the backlash starts. The CIA refutes his story, bigger papers like Washington Post punch holes in his reportage and crucially, he becomes the story. Webb’s private life is put under the microscope and all manner of skeletons are brought out that become a strain on his marriage and family and Renner really convinces as on that front even if it is all pretty nuts and bolts. In truth, Director Michael Cuesta serves us some pretty mundane stuff almost like a news story or a documentary and the film is also packed with characters just moving the plot, lots of news reel footage and clichés like the unnamed CIA agent who appears in the dark of the night to confirm the governments shadowy dealings to the one person who doesn’t need it (although that scene does play out well). The film ends with Webb giving a speech endorsing truth and purpose as a journalist and you feel the film could have done with a little subtlety.
There is the temptation to just brush it off as some basic pandering leftist film but Renner’s acting does get us to buy into Webb and his travails amidst some latent naivety. We feel for him and admire him for pushing the truth and standing up. His motives though, in the end, feel too simple to buy into. I still feel it’s a good film but one that may have needed more of a refreshing take than the one that appears to just panders to cynics who most likely believe the US government and the CIA are by no means above the allegations put forth. It is ultimately a film about the facts and one that will leave you more distrustful of American security agencies and better educated, if for nothing at all.