Shattered Glass (2003) / Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, sexual references and brief drug use
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny, Hank Azaria, Steve Zahn, Rosario Dawson, Melanie Lynskey
Director: Billy Ray
Screenplay: Billy Ray
Review published January 15, 2004
Shattered Glass chronicles the true-life trials and tribulations of Stephen Glass, a 20-something reporter writing for one of the most prestigious news publications in the country in the late 90s, New Republic. It seems his own vivid imagination, added with a desire to entertain others, has landed Glass in a heap of trouble when it is discovered that his latest scoop, an expose on hackers, has some major facts that can't be corroborated. Some reporters for Forbes.com, the online version of Forbes magazine, stumbled on to the lack of information about any of the organizations or people in the article, bringing much heat to New Republic editor to get to the bottom of Glass's story, and decipher whether Glass embellished the facts, or worse, made it up altogether. However, the more plausible explanations that Glass comes up with, the more fishy it all sounds, and soon he finds himself painted in a corner with seemingly no way out.
Shattered Glass is a fascinating psychological study of the dangerous atmosphere within the journalistic community, who tend to hire fresh, young, and largely untested talent to their staffs and employing minimal effort in fact-checking before unleashing the articles to the world. All it takes is one crafty pathological liar to smear the credibility of a renowned publication, and the end result makes us question whether the information we get is accurate, or merely the musings of an over-active mind seeking to entertain and make a name for himself through sensationalism.
Hayden Christensen (Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones) delivers a fantastic performance as Glass, very different from his high-profile role as Anakin Skywalker, evoking great sympathy for Glass' situation despite eliciting anger for being so reckless. As portrayed, he is a bit of a likeable charmer, seeming too innocent to do anything wrong, while also too fragile to want to punish him, especially when he has the admiration of all of his coworkers behind him. But is he really naive that what he's doing is wrong, or is this all an act...another lie to try to cover up the fact that he enjoys spinning yarns to woo the crowd into adulation?
A terrific supporting cast rounds out the quality acting ensemble, with a particularly fine performance by Peter Sarsgaard (Empire, The Salton Sea) as the unpopular editor trying to keep his magazine from falling apart at the seams. First-time writer-director Billy Ray does a fine job keeping the intrigue level high, even when it's obvious where it's all leading, and ultimately gives us enough quiet time to think about the severity of the situation for all involved, including the journalism profession as a whole. It's not flashy, but it is riveting nonetheless, making Shattered Glass on of the finest, and most overlooked, features of 2003. Highly recommended.
©2004 Vince Leo