Could actor-writer-director George Clooney's smart reenactment of the 50-year-old fracas between a courageous newsman and a paranoid, power-mad U.S. senator be the most politically relevant Hollywood film of 2005? It just might: The on-air brawl in question was waged between the legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow (played with astonishing fidelity by David Strathairn) and Joseph McCarthy, the junior senator from Wisconsin whose crusade to root out "card-carrying Communists" from the U.S. government led to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) witch-hunts. By 1953, a dissatisfied Murrow is dividing his time between the hard news he delivers on his live-in-the-studio See It Now program and the soul-crushingly vapid celebrity puff stuff that made his talk show, Person to Person, a huge hit for CBS. Instead of a tool for education and illumination, Murrow fears TV is fast becoming a mass opiate. So while the rest of the country wonders whether Liberace's future might include wedding bells, Murrow decides to devote an episode of See It Now to a serious injustice quietly reported in the Detroit News. Lt. Milo Radulovich, a young Air Force reservist, was relieved from his duties without a trial simply because he refused to denounce both his sister and his father, a Yugoslavian immigrant who subscribed to a "Communist" newspaper. Outraged, Murrow decides it's high time that McCarthy is called to account, even as his faithful producer, Fred Friendly (Clooney), warns that anti-McCarthy editorializing will ruffle the feathers of clay-footed network boss Bill Paley (Frank Langella); his lieutenant, Sig Mickelson (Jeff Daniels); and the show's sponsor, ALCOA. Undeterred, Murrow and Friendly proceed with the segment and, unsurprisingly, McCarthy responds in the only way he knows how: He accuses Murrow of being a Communist. Clooney clearly means his film to serve as a stern reproof against 21st-century media's failure to use television's power as anything more than a distraction. But it's also hard not to hear contemporary significance in Murrow's warnings against governments using fear tactics to wage war on its own citizens in the name of national security. The half-century distance between yesterday's "reds" and today's terrorists suddenly seems very small. That the film should have the look and feel of a classic teleplay by, say, Rod Serling, is probably no accident — the style is one more reminder of just how regrettably short of Murrow's vision we've fallen.