Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) is a journalist for the San Jose Mercury News covering the War on Drugs in the mid-1990s. While investigating a story, Webb discovered that Nicaraguans were smuggling cocaine into the United States. The profits from that drug trade were then going to back the Contras in Nicaragua – with the support of the CIA. Webb’s story about that shady trade agreement, “Dark Alliance,” sparks a media firestorm. However, instead of much of the criticism heading toward the U.S. government, Webb ends up the unfortunate target.

Based on an amazing true story, Kill the Messenger is one of the rare modern-day films about determined journalists with integrity trying to find a way. Director Michael Cuesta (L.I.E., Homeland) harkens back to an era when newsprint was a weapon, and seamlessly integrates news broadcasts to keep us in the spirit of the times. Although the film chronicles a little-known chapter of American history, screenwriter Peter Landesman makes it clear how all of the pieces and people fit together.

Anchoring the plot-heavy drama is Jeremy Renner, giving a compelling turn as the inflamed Webb. With boyish vigour and quick wit, Renner easily slips into the life of a curious, determined man hunting for the truth. It is riveting to see how ignited Renner gets in the field and at his desk working on this breaking story. Nevertheless, the scenes at the Webb household ground the drama, focusing on the man’s flaws and foibles. Here, Renner shows deep vulnerability, as a man trying to support and protect his family despite his close ties to dangerous people. Rosemarie DeWitt and Lucas Hedges give strong supporting turns as his wife Sue and son Ian, respectively. Kill the Messenger cleverly uses Webb’s motorcycle as a metaphor for his engine to please both at work and home

As a D.C. insider played by Michael Sheen tells Webb, “Some stories are too true to tell.” That statement could also define one of the major plot issues with Kill the Messenger. Without giving too much away, the backlash to his “Dark Alliance” series had major repercussions. Kill the Messenger decides to limit much of this sad truth to a few lines of pre-credit text. While the true story is fascinating, there are some holes near the end that one feels the director and screenwriter should have addressed with more detail.