Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction's often more entertaining. Could that be the motto of Stephen Glass, staff writer on American current affairs magazine The New Republic? In the 1990s, Glass was exposed as a conman who filed umpteen wild stories about teenage hackers and young Republican exploits without anyone rumbling that they were completely fabricated. In this nicely understated docu-drama, Hayden Christensen stars as the man who taught American journalism to read between the lies.
Set in the middle of Bill Clinton's second term, when sex scandals dominated the headlines and the president infamously lied to the nation, Shattered Glass is as much about an era as a man. Getting a job at the snootiest current affairs magazine in the country - "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One" - Glass realises that the best way to succeed in 90s America is by re-inventing himself as a brilliant reporter. So what if the truth suffers? It's self-image that counts.
Trashing his hunky Jedi Knight image, Hayden Christensen takes this bespectacled geek from zero to hero. Working with a script that deliberately avoids explaining Glass' motivation, Christensen pulls off quite a feat. He makes this weasley, sexless nerd more likeable than any of the other white-collar stiffs employed at The New Republic (played by Chloë Sevigny, Peter Saarsgard and Melanie Lynskey). Dull, boring and unable to file anything other than yawn-inducing policy reviews, they're desperate for some of the audacity of Glass' stories to rub off on them.
"ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN FOR THE CLINTON ERA"
Sketching the highbrow world of American political journalism with confident strokes, this real-life morality tale slowly builds into an All The President's Men for the Clinton era. In the 60s, investigative reporters Woodward and Bernstein brilliantly exposed President Nixon's lies. In the 90s, Stephen Glass followed the president's duplicitous example, reaping the benefits of a world more interested in image than truth.
Shattered Glass is released in UK cinemas on Friday 14th May 2004.