Shattered Glass: An Old Film Speaks to Reporting Today

By: Noah Staggs

Director:  Billy Ray

Cast:  Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Steve Zahn, Chloe Sevigny

Billy Ray has an impressive resume of writer and screenplay in numerous films since 1990, most recently “Gemini Man” (2019) and the upcoming “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Moviegoers should take a look back at his debut in directing with this real-life drama surrounding the cutthroat, high-pressure world of reporting. One should also consider the current dilemmas involving the public image of media and politics in today’s world when watching.

Synopsis:

Shattered Glass” takes place in 1998 at the offices of The New Republic, a well-respected and traditional newspaper. The outstanding publication has always been carried aboard Air Force One for passengers to read. Stephen Glass is the youngest reporter ever at TNR, and he is making strides with his ever-increasingly stupendous articles. He has also formed a stong bond among the more seasoned reporters like Chuck and Caitlin while under the supportive direction of their editor, Mike Kelly. Unfortunately, Kelly’s loyalty to the staff would get him replaced by Chuck as editor, a position not even he wants. With his new responsibilities, Chuck tries his best to run a tight ship at TNR, but soon he hits a landmine. The doubt surrounding Stephen’s latest publication will unravel one the biggest upsets in journalism history.

The film features actors with a long resume of small roles who had recently entered the cinema spotlight. The infamous reporter Stephen, is played by Hayden Christensen, better known as Anakin in Star Wars films.  The newly promoted editor, Chuck Lane, is portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard, who has played in other dramas based on real life, like “Jarhead” (2005) and “Black Mass” (2015). The supporting characters are also excellently performed by Hank Azaria, Steve Zahn and Chloe Sevigny.

The delivery of acting by the cast is only part of the what makes this film special.  This story also portrays the heavy expectations that come with writing for big papers and the zero margin for error that accompanies such a task.  The competition to get the most tantalizing piece published every day combined with such an environment will cause some people to reach their breaking point sooner or later. 

I had not even read about the real-life Stephen Glass reporter story before watching this film, but that lack of knowledge made for watching this movie better while waiting to see the reveal onscreen.  Real-life films are often plagued by the dramatization of certain events.  While that exaggeration is usually in historical or war films based on real events, “Shattered Glass” as a public event in the world of reporting saves it from such problems.

After watching the film, I hope viewers can see how it is also still relevant in today’s atmosphere where the media can be celebrated or antagonized between two strong political camps.  Understanding how the protocols in newsrooms and fact checking work can help clear up some of this fog of bias.

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