|A very timely film on the perils of journalistic dishonesty, Shattered Glass would appear, at first glance, to be a tepid movie-of-the-week expose on the rise and fall of an enigmatic individual, but the film's not at all lifeless in its execution. Though the offices of "The New Republic" might resemble any other gray office building, the characters possess a bit more life than one would expect to see in a film that might better have been suited to a television presentation. If not for the feature film worthy performances from stars Hayden Christensen (playing the lead role of Stephen Glass) and Peter Sarsgaard (playing editor of TNR, Chuck Lane), the film might have been a less gripping experience.|
But even though its sensationalistic topic might have looked right at home in the middle of a "Dateline NBC" broadcast, the film is surprisingly engrossing, wrapping up in a tidy ninety-nine minutes. Which is just enough time to see the relationship between Glass and Lane sour into something nasty and for the audience's sympathies to completely reverse direction. Having been rather unapologetic about his journalistic "crimes," Stephen Glass is quite the reviled character in real life, and on screen, Christensen plays the complicated man well. It's obvious there are a million things roaming around the character's brain at any one time.
Waiting to see how Glass will try to talk his way out of his self-made fiasco will make the viewer both wait with baited breath for the next piece of dialogue and squirm in his or her seat when Glass twists his next paragraph around his latest lie. The film follows the rather brief period of around a week in which Glass publishes a piece on hackers at "The New Republic" (toted as the "in-flight magazine of Air Force One") and is subsequently ratted out by a writer at a rival publication (Adam Penenberg of "Forbes Digital," played by Steve Zahn) to have created fraudulent sources and statistics for the article. The hole Glass digs becomes so deep that it's amazing to witness how he continues to create lie after lie after lie.
One would assume a person would know when he was beaten and when further lies would cease to make a difference, but Christensen shows very well how Glass refused to travel the path of truth, even when his back was slammed up against the wall. His influence on his co-workers is keenly felt as well as he forms oily friendships with everyone on the staff by giving false compliments and by adopting a self-deprecating attitude that nearly forces anybody he's in conversation with to bend to his will. Glass's intelligence is acute and single-minded and Christensen's performance reflects that.
And though his role is not as dynamic, Peter Sarsgaard, like Christensen, continues to improve in his abilities in front of the camera and shows an impressive amount of depth for the character and takes it further emotionally than one might have expected in an expose on this subject. There are no car chases or explosions in the film, but with the dramatic offerings of the cast being so strong, the character-oriented nature of the piece is entirely suitable. And the lack of pseudo-philosophical discussion is a welcome change from the usual route movies of this sort take as well. One would expect rather long verbal dissertations on the evils of lying and the perils of abandoning honesty in the field of journalism, but rather than give the audience a series of high-minded speeches, the film digs more into the psyche of each of the characters.
This allows the general idea of honesty in journalism to permeate the entire film as a theme, rather than as a directly quoted "lesson." The unobtrusive musical score, composed by Mychael Danna, never overwhelms the film or the characters and is used quite judiciously. And the hand-held nature of the camera work ensures that the biographical nature of the story possesses a realistic and documentary feel.
Supporting performances from ChloŽ Sevigny, Melanie Lynskey, Rosario Dawson, and Hank Azaria are all strong and though none of their characters possess a great amount of back-story or set-up, perhaps the relationship between Stephen Glass and Chuck Lane is the more important element. A solid film that tells an intriguing story with a subtly gripping method of hand-held camera use and a focus on main character relationships (rather than on the cold, hard facts of the case), Shattered Glass provides worthy insight into the mind of a very twisted individual.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.