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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Network (1976)



Reviews and Comments

The immenseness of the power that the American public has permitted television to have over them is astounding, insidious, and frightening. Network is a hilarious and thought-provoking black comedy about this medium, the exorbitantly high stakes that are involved, and the cutthroat rat race run by the station executives.

It's one of the best black comedies ever made. And it's very black. There's no punchlines in this film, but there's a lot of pain. "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore," declares Peter Finch (who won a posthumous Academy Award for his performance), urging others to do the same. Finch's character is a news anchor whose low ratings lead to his being fired, after which he announces he will commit suicide on the air. Subsequently, his ratings skyrocket, and the network is suddenly behind him again.

The film is demented and insane, increasingly so as it progresses. But it mirrors its subject with heartless lucidity.

A large part of what makes Network so good is the eloquence and insight in what it says. The film has a lot to say, a lot worth listening to and thinking about, and the language used to express itself is beautiful and elegant. There's a lot of talking in Network, yet it's not "talky," for volumes more could be spoken -- and would be worth speaking -- about the ideas presented. And the acting is flawless. Finch, Faye Dunaway, and William Holden, among others, give outstanding, unforgettable performances.

Ranking with his debut work, Twelve Angry Men, as director Sidney Lumet's best, Network is a must-see for lovers of film and art. It's what fine filmmaking is all about.