Monday, August 23, 2010

The Special Relationship

Screenwriter Peter Morgan and actor Michael Sheen have done it again. After their success with The Deal and The Queen (not to mention Frost/Nixon and The Damned United), the creative duo cap off their Tony Blair triumvirate with a look at the Prime Minister’s relationship with the Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid). Opening with the wryly ominous Oscar Wilde quote, “A true friend stabs you in the front,” the film traverses Blair’s ascension to power and his almost giddy affection for the dashing American president. The parameters of their defined student-master relationship undergo a dramatic transformation when the furor surrounding the Monica Lewinsky affair and genocide in Kosovo unfold.

While there is something akin to Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing) genius in Morgan’s incisive screenplay, The Special Relationship does suffer from the absence of Stephen Frears (who directed the trilogy’s first two films). Richard Loncraine doesn’t quite have Frears’ deft touch, and most annoyingly, allowed Quaid to affect Clinton’s accent, a failed experiment that is both superfluous and irksome. Despite this, Morgan’s astoundingly researched writing shines as Sheen brings another side of Blair’s fascinating political history to life with understated ease. 

4 Stars

Published in The Big Issue (#360)
Australian release date: 5 August 2010

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