Starring: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny
Director: Billy Ray
Running Time: 94 mins
Shattered Glass is an American film about the true story of a young journalist writing for a major political commentary magazine who fell from grace after it was discovered a number of his stories were fabricated.
A fully gripping watch throughout, Shattered Glass is the sort of film that so many dramas should aspire to be. A true story told with detail and passion, yet bolstered by riveting emotion and well-developed characters, the film is a clever and arresting watch, only let down at times by a lead cast that doesn’t always cut the mustard.
But more on that in a moment, because as a purely factual, biographical drama, Shattered Glass is a fantastic watch. Above all, it’s a really interesting look not just at the scandal that surrounded young write Stephen Glass, but also the nature of journalism – for good and for bad.
So, on the surface, the film gives an enthralling account of Glass’ fall from grace – going from one of the brightest young talents in journalism to an almost entirely disgraced fraud. The eye for detail here is commendable, as the film really pulls you into its story, unfolding just like a brilliantly intricate legal drama.
But below the surface, Shattered Glass is a captivating and often thought-provoking look at the world of modern journalism. On the one hand, it’s a clearly pointed attack on those who fabricate stories and deceive the public – particularly when writing for a publication as influential as the New Republic. What’s more, the film also indirectly points the finger at those who let exaggerated and fabricated stories slide through unchecked, signalling a wider systematic problem in journalism.
Meanwhile, the film also notes the culture of pressure and deadlines on writers is regularly a major factor for poor or even false articles. Shattered Glass doesn’t try to be a fully sympathetic piece for Stephen Glass, but it does offer a pause for thought about how he ended up committing such acts in the first place, which is hugely interesting.
As a result, Shattered Glass works both on a purely factual and deeper thematic level. It’s a great historical account of the real-life scandal, but it offers interesting and still timely insight on journalism and the dangers surrounding its ever-intense culture.
The only real issue with the film, however, is that its lead cast doesn’t quite live up to its excellent screenplay. While none of the performances are particularly poor, the lead turns from Hayden Christensen and Peter Sarsgaard often undermine some of the film’s main points, and make it unnecessarily difficult to get a hold of what it’s trying to say.
Christensen struggles to pull off the duplicitous nature of Stephen Glass as a character – appearing almost comically suspicious in the film’s early stages, and then overloading the emotion towards the finish.
Meanwhile Sarsgaard, who does at least nail the unlikability factor of a journalist just doing his job, is often too bland to really grab your attention, and comes off too weak in his pursuit of the truth against his colleague Glass.
Overall, though, I really liked Shattered Glass. It may not have the most stellar cast of all time, but the film is a thoroughly interesting watch from beginning to end, delivering engrossing biographical drama full of detail, all the while raising insightful and thought-provoking themes about the world of journalism. So, that’s why I’m giving the film a 7.6.