- B+ Community Grade
- Running time: 0 minutes
For violating the public trust and tarnishing the reputation of a venerated political weekly, Stephen Glass, a young reporter caught fabricating stories for The New Republic in 1998, recently earned a six-figure advance for his novel The Fabulist and a new assignment for Rolling Stone. The turnaround for Jayson Blair, whose lies for The New York Times were more consequential and damaging, was even faster, again with a lucrative book deal and a puff piece for Jane on the pressures of the workplace. Neither of these vile rehabilitations had taken place before Shattered Glass, writer-director Billy Ray's timely, gripping account of the Glass scandal, went into production, but the film has the vision to anticipate them. With apologies to All The President's Men, Ray's meat-and-potatoes journalistic procedural casts the Glass case as part of sea change in media culture, where the byline is bigger than the story and the search for flashy young writers has trumped the unsexy practice of solid reportage. Best known as Anakin Skywalker in Attack Of The Clones, the shrewdly cast Hayden Christensen plays Glass with same mix of eagerness and creepy opacity, like a dangerously unformed kid with the ambition to size up Darth Vader's shoes. A well-liked protégé of the late Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria), the 24-year-old Glass worked as an associate editor for TNR, specializing in offbeat human-interest stories that often sounded (and were) too good to be true. His career unraveled when one such story, a piece on a computer-hackers convention ("Hack Heaven"), was questioned by Forbes Digital Tool reporter Adam Penenberg (Steve Zahn), whose inquiry concluded that the article was invented from whole cloth. In Ray's eyes, the real hero to emerge from this debacle was TNR editor-in-chief Charles Lane, who fired Glass after conducting a thorough internal investigation. Played with a dispassionate, leveling stare by Peter Sarsgaard, Lane is shown to personify the values of nuts-and-bolts journalism and the film follows in turn, patiently laying out the details with a minimum of stylistic frills. Aside from an unnecessary framing device, Shattered Glass simply sinks its teeth into a juicy story, never better than when Sarsgaard methodically paints the sniveling Christensen into a corner. A field trip to Bethesda, Maryland, the alleged site of the hackers convention, turns into an especially gripping pas de deux between the two actors, with Christensen's Glass reduced to children's fibs, pleading before a simultaneously disappointed and embarrassed father figure. If it accomplishes nothing else, the film should heap more shame on Glass and Blair–or, better yet, on the people who reward their infamy with a fresh start. All this provided, of course, that any of them have consciences left to stir.