Movie takes honest look at journalists

A review of 'Shattered'

Shattered Glass 3 / 4 stars

PG-13, 94 m Starring Hayden Christensen Directed by Billy Ray Opens Friday, Nov. 7

"Shattered Glass" deals with a subject that is sure to elicit a strong response from film critics: journalism ethics. While an entertainment journalist may not deal with news or economics like the characters in the film, the rules of journalism are universal and apply to all aspects of the profession.

To the average viewer, the ethics of a newsroom sound more like a high-level college class than the subject of a film. Director Billy Ray certainly chooses a very un-Hollywood subject for his directorial debut. His straightforward depiction of D.C. journalist Stephan Glass is not glamorous, nor does it contain sex, violence or a love story.

But the story Ray tells, which is based on actual events, he tells well. And considering the recent scandals involving Jayson Blair at The New York Times, the film's subject is both relevant and timely.

Stephan Glass (Hayden Christensen) was a staff writer for the D.C. news and policy magazine, The New Republic, and a freelance writer for magazines like Rolling Stone and George in the mid-1990s. Glass was considered a highly talented writer, especially because he was very young.

"Shattered Glass" chronicles the events that ensue when Glass's editor, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), discovers that Glass has fabricated 27 of the 41 articles that he wrote for The New Republic.

The film opens with Glass as the hero of film; he is well-loved by his co-workers and highly regarded as a journalist. His editor and mentor Mike Kelly (Hank Azaria) treats him with a sort of fatherly affection and stands behind all of Glass' stories. When Kelly is replaced by Lane as editor of The New Republic, the entire staff of the magazine is devastated, but Glass, being the brown-noser that he is, does his best to welcome Lane as his superior.

But Lane does not stand behind Glass the way Kelly did; in fact, he almost seems set to take Glass down. He gets his chance when it is discovered that one of Glass' stories does not check out and many of its sources do not exist.

By the end of the film Lane is the hero. We want Glass to be punished for breaking the trust of so many readers and his colleagues. We want him to be humiliated for destroying the validity of the journalistic profession.

"Shattered Glass" is not an exciting film. It is told like a magazine article: to the point and using only facts that can be proved. Or, as Ray puts it, the cinematic equivalent of good reporting.

There is no denying what this film will do for journalists. Yes, the Blair incident was a wake-up call, but when something is in a movie the public is more apt to take it to heart. Writers may run home to their computers and spend the rest of the night fact-checking their work and those consuming the news may begin to doubt the articles they previously took for granted as being true.

One of the most remarkable parts about this film is that it is based on a true story and most of the characters in this film are real people. "Shattered Glass" proves, without a doubt, that real people make for the most interesting movies. It clearly doesn't take sex or violence to make a story intriguing. It just takes a top-notch cast and a dedicated director to infuse even the most everyday subject with brilliance.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle

Would you like to support our work? Donate here to The Eagle Innovation Fund.