Published Jan 01, 2006As Anakin Skywalker, Hayden Christensen almost single-handedly wrecked Star Wars: Episode II. His interpretation of developing evil lacked nuance and helped push one of cinema's great villains (Darth Vader) to the periphery of his own story. But Christensen's apparent shortcomings as an actor work to his advantage in Shattered Glass, a recreation of fraudulent journalist Stephen Glass' last days at The New Republic magazine.
In the mid-'90s, a mixture of charm, greed and talent propelled Glass (then in his mid-20s) to the top of his profession. After securing a freelance portfolio that included Rolling Stone, Harper's and George, Glass was exposed for fabricating 27 of the 41 stories he wrote for The New Republic. The film opens with voiceover narration introducing Glass (Christensen) and his daydreams of winning a Pulitzer Prize. The sequence positions Glass as the narrator and also sets up the film's biggest (and most subtle) joke. Glass was, after all, proven to be a ludicrously unreliable storyteller. Narration soon shifts to more conventional (and reliable) modes to document the facts leading up to Glass' dismissal and ultimate humiliation at the hands of New Republic editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard).
Unlike Star Wars: Episode II director George Lucas, who let Christensen drown in a sea of bad performances, Shattered Glass writer/director Billy Ray gives the young actor the support he needs. With help from a tight script and talented character actors like Hank Azaria (as out-going editor Michael Kelly) and Chloë Sevigny (as a Glass supporter), Christensen's halting speech patterns and whiny voice come across as performance, rather than poor acting. And with that, Shattered Glass is left to play out like the best of the insider journalism films (The Insider, All the President's Men, Broadcast News), retelling an extraordinary story while taking pleasure in rehearsing the job's day-to-day routines, editorial meetings, office politics and fact checking. (Lions Gate)