So when the inevitable sticky ethical questions come, it’s difficult to understand the journalist’s motivations let alone sympathize with them. In one pivotal scene, Weaver’s character let’s Hamilton know that Chinese communists are arming the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). He seizes on the scoop. “You can’t do this,” Weaver’s character tells him, knowing if the story breaks, she will be fingered for leaking it. “Then you shouldn’t have told me,” he answers coolly.
Billy’s voiceover is soon musing upon how much Hamilton has changed—look, there he is bribing a source—and how he is just like the others, making a “fetish” of his career. Billy wants Hamilton to be more the activist reporter, to expose the poverty he himself has really just opened his eyes to. At one point, Billy tears into a bar to berate the correspondents for failing to focus on Jakarta’s poverty and announces loudly their individual foibles—the booze, the whores, and the boys.
Had any of the foreign correspondents made a strong case for their profession, it might have been a fair fight. Had the filmmakers allowed them to stake out a place for incisive, clear-headed, factual foreign reporting—and the value that can be to a world watching on as Indonesia’s future played out—the audience might not side so quickly and innately with Billy. Hamilton does mount something of a defense at one point, but only in as much as it relates to his betrayal. Even if a stronger defense were mounted though, coming from these characters we may be disinclined to listen.
As it stands, Dangerously leaves us with a group of rather hollow career fetishists and Kwan: the brilliantly played, engaging moralizer who, while a tad Machiavellian in his puppet-mastery of Hamilton, ultimately dies for his belief that Indonesia has a better future. The scribes don’t stand a chance.
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