Sunday, 19 October 2014

Movie Review: Kill The Messenger

Previous Review: The Book of Life
Next Review: Interstellar

"Some stories are just too true to tell." Kill the Messenger tells the tragic true story of a journalist/reporter, Gary Webb who works for the San Jose Mercury News, uncovered a shocking scandal when he wrote a series of articles in 1996 claiming that the government and CIA was partly responsible for bringing crack cocaine to the U.S. in the 1980s to secretly fund an illegal war to stop communism.

The serious implication that the U.S. government had deliberately spread cocaine to African-American neighborhoods to help finance a secret war supporting the contra rebels in Nicaragua evoked outrage among the African-American community and create racial tensions at the time the articles was published. However, all began to fall apart when some of the country's well-known newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times) made personal attacks against him. Gary Webb paid a huge price for writing the articles. Soon, his own life and past mistakes became the focus of the mainstream media and his articles are under heavy scrutiny by various media and the public.

Since the film is actually "based on a true story", the film most likely take a few liberties with the story (there might be some factual inaccuracies) and the events depicted mostly likely are dramatized to make it a far more interesting movie, but it still doesn't eliminate the fact that most of the events occurred in some ways in the past.

Jeremy Renner gives his best lead role performance in portraying Webb as a real, flawed human being. The film takes time to explore the character's life, showing how his obsession to uncover the truth slowly consumes and destroys his life...His decision to reveal the story has created a serious blow not only to himself, but to his family as well, as people who knew him slowly turned against him and drove him into depression. This essentially provides the necessary character development required for the audience to relate with.

Kill the Messenger is not a typical thriller you normally see on screen. Truth to be told, the film is rather slow-paced and it really lags in the mid section. There's barely any action to excite the casual moviegoers. Throughout the film, there are no government officials or CIA agents threatened him with violence. Instead, they choose to let the mainstream media destroy the man by destroying his credibility as an investigative reporter. Soon after, his reputation was tarnished and his career was ruined.

It's a cautionary tale that shows us things are never what it seemed to be. If this film was made 15 years earlier, it could have vindicated Webb and may or may not prevented his suicide in 2004. It's a shame that it took so long for this film to appear in cinemas.

Rating: 7.5/10

The following question is also taken from the site mentioned above.

Is there any truth to Gary Webb's story?
Yes. As for how much, we may never know. A 1988 Senate subcommittee report noted that certain CIA-backed contras did smuggle drugs to make money.

"Earlier, in the 1980s, Robert Parry and Brian Barger reported on the story for AP, which was picked up by then freshman Senator John Kerry, who in 1988 released an extensively documented committee report showing the ways the Contras, backed by Ronald Reagan’s White House, were turning Central America into a transshipment point for Colombian cocaine, using the drug revenue to fund their war on the Sandinistas."

Ten years later in 1998, Frederick P. Hitz, the CIA inspector general, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that following a thorough review of the matter, he believed that the CIA in the least acted as a bystander with regard to the war on drugs.

"I believe our investigation is the most comprehensive and exhaustive ever conducted by the CIA/OIG and that the Report of Investigation reflects accurately what was found by our team. Having said that, one may ask if it is possible there is some relevant document we did not find or some relevant person we did not interview that would alter our conclusions. As for the documents, the answer to that is, "Yes, it is possible, but I do not believe it is likely." As for individuals, the Report explains that six former CIA employees and a former DEA agent refused our request to be interviewed. We had no power to compel them to do So... Given the effort I have described, however, I do not believe it is likely that any significant information that would have substantially altered the conclusions of this Volume has escaped our attention. Now let me turn to the Findings of Volume I. Before i go any further, I want to make clear that we found absolutely no evidence to indicate that CIA as an organization or its employees were involved in any conspiracy to bring drugs into the United States.The first half of volume I discussed CIA knowledge of the activities of Ross, Blandon and Meneses. Ross, Blandon and Meneses are convicted drug dealers. Our investigation found no information to indicate that any past or present employee of CIA, or anyone else acting on behalf of CIA, had any dealings with Ross, Blandon or Meneses, or had any knowledge of their drug trafficking activities. Ross was a drug dealer who, by his own admission, says his sole motivation was to derive personal financial gain from the illegal trafficking of drugs. During the 1980's, Ross was a major cocaine and crack trafficker who..says he made millions in the drug trade. His activities helped to foster the crack epidemic that erupted in South Central Los Angeles. However, Ross told us that he never sold drugs for the Contras or donated any money to the Contras. CIA never had any relationship with Ross. Likewise, Blandon and Meneses also trafficked in drugs to derive personal financial gain. While CIA had no relationship with Blandon and Meneses, our investigation did find that Blandon and Meneses were affiliated with California Contra support organizations and each made financial contributions to those groups."

"AS I said earlier, we have found no evidence in the course of this lengthy investigation of any conspiracy by CIA or its employees to bring drugs into the United States. However, during the Contra era, CIA worked with a variety of people to support the Contra program. These included CIA assets, pilots who ferried supplies to the Contras, as well as Contra officials and others. Let me be frank about what we are finding. There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity or take action to resolve the allegations."

The media, then consumed by the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, largely ignored the findings.

For those who are interested to know more, here are a list of articles related to the film:

Previous Review: The Book of Life
Next Review: Interstellar

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