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Shattered Glass

  Shattered Glass
ChloŽ Sevigny tries to decide if Hayden Christensen is really a man, or only a handsome woman.

© 2003, Lions Gate
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In 1998, young journalist, Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen, "Attack of The Clones"), was at the top of his game writing for the respected political magazine, The New Republic. Churning out story after story, he was beloved by his co-workers (including Chloe Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey) for his charming, self-deprecating demeanor, and by his editors for his ability to write colorful stories. When Glass' latest article covering a computer hacker becomes the focus of a rival's fact-checking eye (Steve Zahn), Glass' inability to substantiate his sources starts to become worrisome to his editor, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard, "Boys Don't Cry"). As Lane begins to investigate Glass' escalating deceptions, the editor soon learns how fraudulent Glass has been with his stories throughout his time at the magazine.

Based on the true story of the real Glass' infamous hoaxes, "Shattered Glass" (IMDb listing) is a film that probes the paranoia, confusion and repulsion that was directed at Glass during this turbulent time. The Glass saga is ripe for exploration, since the very same incident occurred this year with New York Times writer Jayson Blair. "Glass" helps get inside the mind of an impulsive soul seeking a way to stand out in front of his bosses, as well as savagely questing for adoration. "Shattered Glass" is careful not to make Glass solely an unethical beast, but it also doesn't make excuses for his reckless behavior -- which is deeply needed for the film to work. The audience should be able to feel the wonderment, panic and desperation of a mind that goes so far to cover its lies, it becomes unaware of what the truth is anymore. In that regard, "Glass" is wildly successful.

Recognition must be paid to the cast, which is a collection of fantastic young talent. The film really belongs to Hayden Christensen and Peter Sarsgaard, who ride this roller coaster of trust and betrayal impressively with their roles. Christensen nails Glass' overconfidence and perpetual self-pitying suspicion, creating a concrete portrayal of ambition turned sour. For those who pooh-pooh his work in the "Star Wars" films, do both of us a favor and check out how Christensen manages to convey immense self-loathing and concealed pride in one look. It's remarkable. The same goes for Sarsgaard, who develops the film's best dramatic arc: the slow reveal of deception as Lane begins to discover Glass' lies. A consistently reliable supporting talent ("K-19"), Sarsgaard shines here unlike ever before.

"Shattered Glass" hits the screen from writer/director Billy Ray. This is Ray's first time behind the camera, but one would never know it from the finished product. This is as clean as filmmaking can get. Ray chooses economy over style and presents Glass' world as the paranoid, ego-boosting environment it is. Ray's previous screenwriting foibles included the Bruce Willis dud, "The Color of Night," and one of the worst films of 1997, "Volcano." It's a small miracle that "Glass" has turned out so well after looking at Ray's filmography. The film takes place mostly in the cubicles and offices of wet-behind-the-ears journalists, but Ray breathes life into these surroundings. Where there could be just talking heads and office politics, Ray fashions The New Republic workplace as a battlefield of writers using gossip, charm and occasionally genuine talent to rise to the top. The newsroom hasn't looked this exhilarating since "All the President's Men."

"Shattered Glass" is a film that could have been as dry and boring as, say, reading The New Republic, but Ray makes conscious choices to keep the drama securely wound and permits the true story and commanding performances to compensate for lack of scope or budget. As riveting as any action blockbuster, "Shattered Glass" is further proof that there is occasionally better drama behind the headlines.

Filmfodder Grade: A-








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