Kill the Messenger ****Dir: Michael Cuesta. With: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie De Witt, Oliver Platt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. 112 mins. Cert: 15
Any blue-chip drama tossed ungilded into the post-awards dead zone risks seeming like the Academy’s cast-offs, but this one’s worth salvaging: an intelligent, rigorously constructed biopic of reporter Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), whose mid-90s dispatches exposed links between the CIA, South Central drug dealers and the Nicaraguan Contras. That career-defining scoop lands halfway through Michael Cuesta’s film, the better to observe the contents of the ensuing media shitstorm settle about its subject’s shoulders: Renner’s unflashy, sympathetic character work makes Webb several degrees more vulnerable than the crusading journo archetype usually permits. Fresh from TV’s Homeland, Cuesta sustains a quietly compelling paranoia as the powers-that-be start blurring the narrative line, while his wily performers – Oliver Platt and Richard Schiff as rival editors, Michael Sheen as a Beltway insider – lend unusual contour to Webb’s notes and transcripts. Not since 2003’s Shattered Glass has the journalistic pursuit of truth been presented onscreen as such a mortally serious matter of honour.
Kill the Messenger opens in cinemas nationwide today.