I’d like to begin by affirming that I did, in fact, watch Shattered Glass before writing this review. After emerging from a quietly damning movie about the journalistic equivalent of a suicide bomber, I feel the need to source everything. But that’s not to say the now-familiar true story — of serial fabricator Stephen Glass palming off dozens of made-up stories on The New Republic, George, and Harper’s in the late ’90s — is presented as a cautionary tale by writer-director Billy Ray.
Rather, his film, a small, superb photonegative of ”All the President’s Men,” takes viewers for a ride along the prismatic surface of a charming protean sociopath, and wisely avoids explorations of its subject’s moral interior, even as it wickedly allows him to narrate. The story instead seats itself in embattled editor Chuck Lane (a weary, wary Sarsgaard), who begins investigating the much-loved writer and finds an abyss looking back at him. ”Star Wars”’ Christensen nails Glass’ entitled desperation; he bravely lets the character remain a black hole, with all the magnetism that implies. The movie, refreshingly, is better sourced than anything Glass ever wrote. It benefits not only from Ray’s unsensational style but also from self-deprecating factual input by Glass’ duped coworkers — including Lane, who reveals on the commentary track that some exchanges were reenacted verbatim. ”The truth is, there is no truth,” he says. ”Glass has left us all quite…shattered.” Actually, Lane doesn’t say that. But I needed a good conclusion.