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Heroes of the Zeroes: Shattered Glass

by on September 27, 2010
 

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.