Shattered Glass review by Mike Long

I did watch the DVD that I'm about to review. If you don't believe me, you can ask my wife, as she watched it with me. And, I wrote every word of the review that you are about to read. Why all the disclosures? Because Shattered Glass brings up many important points, and journalistic ethics is one of the most prominent. Along with that, we get a gripping film which shows that Hayden Christensen can act.

Shattered Glass tells the real-life story of Stephen Glass (played in the film by Hayden Christensen), a young Washington go-getter who was a writer for The New Republic in the late 1990s, as well as other magazines. Glass was one of the youngest writers at the prestigious magazines, and his articles always garnered a great deal of attention. Glass was a easy-going, personable guy who was very close to his co-workers, such as Caitlin Avey (Chloe Sevigny) and Amy Brand (Melaine Lynskey), and his editor, Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria). Things begin to change when the magazine publishes an article by Glass entitled "Hack Heaven", which told of a hacker's convention and a young hacker who get a multi-million dollar deal with a company he'd hacked. The editor of Forbes on-line magazine read the piece and assigned one of his writers, Adam Penenberg (Steve Zahn) to follow-up on the piece. As Adam explores the piece he finds many loose ends. When Glass' new editor, Chuck Lane (Steve Sarsgaard), gets word of this, he does some digging himself and soon learns that Stephen Glass may have been fabricating all of his articles.

The story of Stephen Glass and his fall from grace (which shouldn't be confused with the more recent Jayson Blair fiasco at The New York Times) is an incredibly interesting one, but it's also a fairly straightforward one, which could have been told in a very blas manner. Credit must go to writer/director Billy Ray who chose to tell the story in a unique manner. While Shattered Glass is about Stephen Glass, the movie is not told through his eyes. The story is told from the point-of-view of his co-workers. While we observe Glass in action, we rarely see him alone -- he is always with someone else. The truth is that, to this day, no one knows exactly what Glass was thinking as he faked his way through his time at the magazine. Thus, instead of showing what Glass is going through, Ray shows how Glass actions effect those around him. This move goes in the opposite direction of many films in this genre. Typically, we would be asked to identify and feel for the villain (calling Glass the villain may be extreme, but Im sure that Chuck Lane wouldnt argue with that), but in Shattered Glass, we become emotionally attached to the other characters. Thus, once the investigation begins, instead of thinking, I hope he doesnt get caught! (a feeling which would go against the morals of many viewers), we want Glass to get caught. This puts a spin on the suspense in the film and makes some scenes fairly unnerving.

Rays creative story-telling is further enhanced by the incredible acting in the film. Youll be saying Anakin who? once you see Hayden Christensens performance in this movie. I dont know, maybe its because hes missing the rat-tail, but I forgot that I was looking at the guy from those crappy Star Wars movies and totally bought his performance. Apparently, Glass was very good at manipulating people (Are you mad at me? was one of his catch-phrases), and Christensen brings those emotions across in a very believable manner. However, actor Peter Sarsgaard goes one further, turning in a bravura performance as the man who fears that his magazine will be destroyed due to the actions of this one man. The Chuck Lane character begins as a very calm, subtle person, but as hes forced to play detective, he becomes more intense and takes over the film. Chloe Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey are very good as the writers who fall prey to Glass act. Hank Azarias role is small, but its great to see him doing drama (although, I did want him to whip out the Chief Wiggum voice) and Steve Zahn offers some much needed humor to the film. Shattered Glass is an intense, well-made movie which deserves more exposure.

Shattered Glass falsifies its way onto DVD courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment. As much as I urge you to see this movie, I must say that Im quite disappointed in the transfer. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a trace amount of grain at times. But, the amount of defects from the source material is astounding. The film is littered with dirt, splotches, and black spots. I think I even spotted a cigarette burn, which would imply that a theatrical print was used for this transfer. At times, the splotches are so big that I was convinced I was seeing an intentional Tyler Durden effect. The colors are good and the flesh-tones look good. The amount of artifacting is kept to a minimum, but one cant miss those source-print defects. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is serviceable. The dialogue is clear and audible, and the track shows no hissing or distortion. The surround and stereo effects are kept to a minimum, but they do kick in for musical cues and crowd noise.

A big problem that I have with films which are based on true stories is that the DVDs rarely address the real-life events. That isnt the case with Shattered Glass. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director Billy Ray and the real Chuck Lane. If you need a testament to the quality of the film, Lane comments on the film as if he were watching real life. Ray talks about the production of the film, while Lane comments on the reality of the film. This mixture teaches us a great deal about the reality of the movie and the amount of work that Ray put into the movie to make it accurate. If you didnt learn enough from that, the DVD features a 13-minute segment from 60 Minutes which has an interview with the real-life Stephen Glass. Seeing the man in person really brings home the reality of the film, and it also features the real Chuck Lane as well as some other people who were involved with the situation. The DVD also contains the trailer for Shattered Glass.


8 out of 10 Jackasses

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