In America in the '50s, TV quiz shows were watched by more than half the viewing public. When handsome Ivy League lecturer Charles Van Doren became reigning champ of Twenty One, he found himself a national celebrity. Then a defeated former champion, Herbie Stempel, a working-class Jew from Queens, New York, claimed the show was fixed. Redford has fashioned (from Paul Attanasio's brilliant screenplay) an impeccably nuanced Faustian drama which aspires to capture America's fall from grace: that point at the end of the '50s when the country first lost faith in itself. Poised, patrician and with a genius IQ, Van Doren (Fiennes) appears to be the perfect role model. Instead, he is a victim of the values of the times and his own greed for approval. In an investigation which evokes (or prefigures) All the President's Men, Congressional agent Dick Goodwin (Morrow) sniffs out the conspiracy. He's intent on putting television on trial, but deeply reluctant to believe that Van Doren could be implicated. Perfectly pitched, the film brims with insight and wit. Highly recommended.
Cast and crew