Review: “Shattered Glass”

A deftly compelling cautionary tale about modern day journalism gone wrong, ‘Glass’ is a meticulously constructed slow burn drama whose strength lies in not only its fascinating true story, but the filmmakers attention to detail which makes it a lazily paced but nevertheless worthwhile investment of your time.

With a low budget and use of only two or three sets (this case being the offices of the New Republic, Forbes Digital and some ‘households’) and a few locations, first-time Director Billy Ray manages to keep things moving smoothly throughout and delivers his film without either glorifying its lead or preaching about the always murky issues of ethics in journalism.

The cast are uniformly excellent, even Christensen. The young “Star Wars” actor still has trouble delivering some of his more emotional scenes, but otherwise is surprisingly deft at making Glass a bookish, seemingly naive and yet charming con artist whom you want to believe in even when his desperately tangled web of lies becomes so blatant they can’t be ignored. He plays it real with emotional breakdowns, distancing himself from others, feigned innocence, and quick comebacks – none of that arrogant wink to the audience style DiCaprio stuff from “Catch Me If You Can”.

Even more impressive is Peter Sarsgaard in the tougher role of editor Chuck Lane, a performance which requires all sorts of nuances as its a guy pushed into a position and under a lot of pressure to simply ignore the problem, but rather he takes the higher ground of facing it.

His and Hayden’s scenes together have an almost ‘teacher – star pupil’ aspect to it which effectively sets up a sense of simmering dread and curiosity, scenes filled with a subtext of what these two reporters represent in terms of old thorough fact-based journalism vs. modern style ‘driven by entertainment and prose’ pieces. Their visit to a building and the diners around it to investigate a piece on a hacker’s convention is one of the most compelling confrontations on film this year.

Hank Azaria turns in one of his straightest but more emotional parts of his career, Chloe Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey offer solid support, and both Steve Zahn & Rosario Dawson welcomingly play against the type of roles they’ve become known for as here they’re the straight up and believably ambitious reporters from rival Forbes Digital.

Problems wise there isn’t many. With a limited budget and not much going on besides talking, this can’t help but feel like a TV movie throughout. The procedural nature of the investigations which brings up points repeatedly is quite realistic but some will no doubt think it tedious – at a little over an hour and a half it feels like a little over two.

With such a tight drama piece it leaves one gaping (albeit probably intentional) flaw – the burning question of how Glass’ articles managed to make it to print despite the heavy scrutinising process all articles go through to get to print (this ‘process’ is superbly explained in one sequence). Newspapers and magazines have always been held as the most reliable of journalism formats, thus the irony of an Internet-based magazine exposing Glass’ actions will invite a delicious little smile from those who work in this field everyday.

‘Glass’ can be best summed up as a modern day “All the President’s Men”, a well-constructed piece about how trust can be so easily misplaced, how the illusion of a good story can be so much more compelling even to journos whose job it is to get it right before making it sound good. Truth may be stranger than fiction, in this case its far more interesting.