There's a certain irony in knowing that "Shattered Glass" a film about a real-life journalist who made up stories and passed them off as true does its own share of fictionalizing characters and events.
Not that such a thing is unexpected in feature filmmaking, and not that it really detracts from this drama about journalistic responsibility and ethics.
As it does so without bludgeoning the viewer, it's one of the more effective recent feature films about the newsgathering process, even if it doesn't quite meet the standard set in 1976 by "All the President's Men."
At least some of that is attributable to a less-than-convincing lead performance by Hayden Christensen, who plays disgraced New Republic writer Stephen Glass.
"Shattered Glass" tracks his rise to associate editor and attempts to show how the twentysomething writer managed to convince his editors that his stories were "factual," while winning over his co-workers. (Glass nearly brought the entire magazine down with him when it was discovered that he fabricated sources and quotes for many of his magazine articles.)
His eventual downfall began when the magazine appointed a fellow writer, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), as editor. While Glass' former editor (Hank Azaria) tolerated some of his eccentricities, Lane comes down harder on him especially when outside journalists begin questioning whether stories by Glass are real.
Screenwriter Billy Ray impresses in his directorial debut, though the online journalists (Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson) who uncovered Glass' fabrications receive only cursory treatment at best. And while Christensen does have charisma, he overdoes the nerdy mannerisms. But the rest of the cast is terrific enough to make up for it.
Sarsgaard makes the mild-mannered Lane (a role that's quite a departure from his usually more intense roles) the film's most sympathetic character, and Zahn is solid in his limited screen time, bringing welcome comic relief to some of the dramatic material .
"Shattered Glass" is rated PG-13 for occasional use of strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), some crude sexual talk and brief drug use (marijuana). Running time: 93 minutes.