Shattered Glass is the fascinating true story of young journalist Stephen Glass, writer for the New Republican and office suck-up. He constantly flatters his co-workers, slags off their new boss to gain their favour, and craves attention through an appearance of humility: his catchphrase when pitching an article is “but I know it’s silly, I probably won’t finish it anyway.” When his latest article is found to have some factual inaccuracies, however, those around him start to question the sort of person he really is.
Screenwriter Billy Ray does a fantastic job in both directing the film and adapting the source material, ensuring that a film that’s essentially about writing is never anything less than engaging. Much as you can guess Glass’ crimes before they’re revealed, the extent of them come the final reel is still shocking. Hayden Christensen is a very pleasant surprise in the lead, considering this movie came out in the middle of the debacle that was the Star Wars prequels. Despite turning in one of the most wooden performances in cinema history as Anakin Skywalker, he is excellent here: whiny, nice-to-the-point-of-dislikeable and needy, he never attempts to make Glass pitiable. Equalling sterling is Peter Sarsgaard’s performance as unloved editor Charles ‘Chuck’ Lane, the one man who sees past Glass’ faux-vulnerability in the workplace, and there’s very strong support from Hank Azaria and Steve Zahn, especially given their usual propensity for comedy.
The film bombed on release, despite being a critical success. It’s an intellectual effort that doesn’t pander to people expecting high emotion or explosions: the drama is all in the performances. If you’re interested in journalism, this is an entertaining expose on what goes into the articles we read on a daily basis.
Shattered Glass (2004), directed by Billy Ray, is released on DVD in the UK by Icon Home Entertainment, Certificate 15.