Jeremy Renner is on terrific form as an intrepid journalist seeking to uncover government corruption in factual conspiracy thriller Kill the Messenger, but the rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to his impressively nuanced performance.
Renner nails the dogged fearlessness of San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb as he uncovers evidence of covert CIA dealings with drug traffickers in the mid-1990s, exposing how the agency’s efforts to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua fuelled the crack epidemic in US cities.
And he’s equally good at showing Webb’s vulnerable side when he becomes the target of a smear campaign – largely driven, the film suggests, by jealous news rivals on the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times – straining his relationship with his family to breaking point.
There are telling encounters along the way with a vivid gallery of sources, including Andy Garcia’s dapper imprisoned drug lord and Michael Sheen’s dour federal prosecutor, who warns him that ‘some stories are just too true to tell’.
But the film never sustains an All the President’s Men level of tension and some of its key scenes fail to ring true, which seems more than a shame when you are trying to tell the tale of a man brought down by his devotion to the truth.
Certificate 15. Runtime 112 mins. Director Michael Cuesta.
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