Hayden Christensen may have received less-than-perfect reviews for his performance as Anakin Skywalker, but he shines as real-life Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass, a sensational drama that is built on powerful acting and an intriguing true story.
Glass was a journalist in his mid-twenties who was at the top of his game. With an important job at the highly esteemed "The New Republic," and working as a freelance writer for "Harper's Bazaar" and "George," he was in high demand due to his ability to find high profile and entertaining stories under any circumstance. However, following the attempt by the online version of "Forbes Magazine" to follow-up one of Glass's stories, things began to unravel. It soon became clear, though hard to accept, that Glass had made up some or all of his most recent story, "Hack Heaven," an absolute no-no for journalists. His editor, Chuck Lane, slowly came to accept that Glass had become a pathological liar and had played everyone, going to extraordinary lengths to hide his lies.
Shattered Glass, directed by Billy Ray, tells this very story, focusing more on the two main characters - Glass and Lane - than the moral issues some might expect. In fact, Ray is extraordinarily objective when it comes to his presentation of the facts. In most scenarios, some kind of bias is useful and essential for a film like this to succeed, especially for something that looks at an incident so recent (1998). After all, Glass played the major publications he worked for, his friends and his readers for fools, and defied every ethical standard of journalism. Nevertheless, this movie is much more than a statement of facts; it gives an amazing view at a troubled character that would stop at nothing to make people happy.
Shattered Glass succeeds because its lead character is so compelling. The movie perhaps doesn't answer why Glass would do what he did, but does portray a vivid image of the man so that audiences can make up their own minds. Best of all, Ray does not have to go far to create an interesting film, since many of the things Glass did were so outrageous that little is needed to "spruce things up for Hollywood." Glass went to extraordinary lengths to cover up his lies, typically by creating more lies - he created fake emails, phone numbers, voice mails and even a website to back up his stories. On top of all of the interesting facts that are presented in this movie, the acting is top notch.
Not only does Christensen deliver his best performance to date as the likable yet strangely awkward ex-journalist, but Peter Sarsgaard is equally impressive as editor Chuck Lane. Though Sarsgaard's presence is fairly muted in the first half of the movie, his character gathers steam toward the end and finally takes over. He adds the final punch the movie needs to be what it is.
Shattered Glass is an extraordinary movie. In some respects, it is little more than a retelling of facts, but with great performances from Christensen and Sarsgaard, it goes much deeper. It is hard to understand what would drive someone to lie to the extent that Stephen Glass did - and think that he would get away with it - and while Shattered Glass doesn't specifically answer the question, it does explore the flawed character in a very satisfying way. And yes, I actually did watch this movie. Everything in this review can be confirmed.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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