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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Shattered Glass

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Shattered Glass”
Rated PG-13
2003

Not just a rigorously realistic portrayal of newsroom politics and procedures, Billy Ray’s “Shattered Glass” burrowed into the deceitful brain of Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) — a seemingly infallible writer at Washington, D.C.’s New Republic in the mid-1990s.

Glass was a glad-handing, brown-nosing nerd who meekly spun unassuming insecurities into endearing office friendships — all the better to blind colleagues so they couldn’t see him yank down the wool.

When rival reporters get a whiff of falsity from a story on which Glass scooped them, Glass’s editor, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), takes it upon himself to deduce the depths of Glass’s fraudulence.

Unless there’s ever a 2×4 famous enough to warrant biopic treatment, this is likely to be Christensen’s only great performance — skillfully blurring the lines between sincerity and fabrication to the point where even Glass’s paid compliments could be bankrupt bunkum.

That said, “Shattered” really belongs to Sarsgaard as the film’s true-north compass.

Lane had the unenviable task of leading former peers from a beloved, ousted editor’s chair. Though perceived as vendetta, Lane’s investigation is an exhaustively extended courtesy he hopes won’t lead to awful truths. Sarsgaard steers “Shattered’s” greatest scenes of realization and confrontation virtually by himself.

In framing sequences of possible fantasy, Glass admonishes students about journalism’s privilege and responsibility — values he willfully abused as deceptively and dishonestly as any sociopath parlaying his skill into power.

Using unexpectedly suspenseful character drama for a straight-shooting tale about pathological lying, 2003’s “Shattered” elevated itself to the upper echelon of journalism films.

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3 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Shattered Glass”

  1. Peter Sarsgaard is fantastic in everything–one of the most underrated actors out there.

    And I looooved this movie. I’ve always been fascinated by hoaxes and pathological liars, and this was perfectly done.

  2. Nick Rogers says:

    Joe: I don’t know that I’ve seen "Boys Don’t Cry" since its theatrical release, but the specificity of Sarsgaard’s menace is still fresh. And, yes, Sarsgaard is great for many reasons – among them the ability to poke fun at himself.

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/10305/saturday-night-live-pirates-convention

  3. Joe Shearer says:

    Absolutely one of my favorite movies. I had just seen "Boys Don’t Cry," which features Peter Sarsgaard as probably one of the least likable characters in history, just a week or two before I saw this film, and I was not able to separate the character from the actor. I hated Peter Sarsgaard so much that I was firmly on the other side throughout the film. This film’s turning point was such that it actually made me like Sarsgaard, and I’ve been a huge fan of his since. He’s a tremendous actor.

    And I agree too on Christiansen. He’s a horrible actor and he only worked in this film because it called for him to be whiny and childish in some ways.