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Deadline (1988)

R | | Drama | TV Movie
In a small (fictional) emirate of the Persian Gulf a world-weary journalist is caught up in a coup where the Emir's son, under the influence of a political renegade, attempts to depose his ... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Granville Jones
Lady Romy Burton
Robert McBain ...
Sandy McCulloch
Lou Rivers
Bargach Abdelrahim ...
Julian Curry ...
David Conville ...
Sir Geoffrey Burton
The Emir of Hawa
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Naji Ahmed ...
Suleiman's brother
Shaun Carew
J.R.M. Chapman ...
The guest
Lou Hirsch ...
Bajji Abdel Kabir ...
Yannis Lazarides ...
Hatim (adult)


In a small (fictional) emirate of the Persian Gulf a world-weary journalist is caught up in a coup where the Emir's son, under the influence of a political renegade, attempts to depose his father - the ruling monarch. Flashbacks of the journalist's life show us how his relationships with the Emir and a beautiful young woman develop and flourish. Written by ignazia, Pacific NW

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An important film for today, which should be revived
18 December 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This film was way ahead of its time, and is far more relevant today than it was a quarter of a century ago when it was made, at which time it may have seemed to be rather far-fetched. But now, alas, real life has moved on, and things have caught up with this film's story. The film was shot in Morocco, but the story is set in a fictitious emirate in the Persian Gulf, called 'Hawa'. John Hurt as the lead actor gives one of the finest performances of his entire career. Hurt plays a roving investigative reporter with a very high reputation who has been sunken into deep depression for some years by the death of the love of his life, played in the many flashbacks by Imogen Stubbs. He met her at Hawa, where she was doing underwater archaeology. Since her death he has stayed in Hawa, unable to leave the place where he once had his greatest happiness. Hurt has a long-standing friendship with the Emir of Hawa, and one of the film's best performances is by the Indian actor Roshan Seth, who plays the Emir. The film takes place both in 'the present' and in the past via the flashbacks. In the present, drastic events have just taken place. The Emir is reported to have abdicated in favour of his son, who has appointed a notorious Muslim fundamentalist as his prime minister. This represents a massive political earthquake for the region, though in 1988 when this film was made, the public could not have appreciated the implications of what the story was saying at all, as people were still unaware at that time of what Islamic fundamentalism was. Today, no one would miss the message. How did a story so far ahead of its time come to be written? It was written by the famous investigative journalist Tom Stacey, who really knew what he was talking about, and whose knowledge of international affairs even then was encyclopaedic. I knew Stacey fairly well in the late sixties, when he was running Correspondents World Wide in London. We met up again at a notorious private dinner party in the 1970s at which certain distinguished people were present and a subject of major importance was discussed, where my opinion of him changed dramatically. The issues involved are so sensitive that I cannot speak of them. Suffice it to say that I suddenly understood more about why Stacey was so well informed on international affairs. The love scenes between Hurt and Stubbs are extremely well done. Hurt's mastery of meaningful silences, sharp glances, and keeping dialogue to himself was never used by him to greater effect than in this film. He and Stubbs speak so minimally to each other, that it is almost as if they had lost the use of their tongues (other than for kissing, of course). But as often happens when such scenes are carried off properly, we learn more from what they don't need to say to one another than any amount of gabbling dialogue could ever have communicated. When people are alone and in love, they do not need to keep declaring it in words as most screenwriters seem to think necessary. In this story, the Emir's son brings Hurt into the palace where the Emir (who has in fact been overthrown in an armed coup and has been shot in the shoulder) is lying in bed, having 'injured himself'. Hurt and the Emir communicate minimally, barely saying a thing, and as the Emir extends his hand to thank Hurt for his many years of friendship, he slips a note into Hurt's hand declaring that he was been overthrown by force, and Hurt smuggles this note out. Before leaving, he is given use of a telex machine (remember them? this is 1988) to send a dispatch to his newspaper in London quoting the 'official' circular in which the Emir says he has abdicated willingly. But he adds a code at the end which means not to use the story, thus fooling the Emir's son and making his escape. He crosses the sea in a small boat to 'another country' where he manages to send the true story, but the paper's editor in London refuses to believe the truth of it unless Hurt can transmit an image of the Emir's secret message, However, the transmitting machine is broken and when it is fixed, there is a power cut. Can Hurt get the image sent in time to precipitate the refusal of recognition by the United States and Britain, thus thwarting the coup? Or will he miss the deadline (hence the title of the film) so that it will be too late, and extremism will be ensconced irreversibly in the Gulf? The tension mounts, and if you want to know what happens, you have to get the DVD. The film is well directed by Richard Stroud. It is ironical that the two most politically significant films in which John Hurt played the lead (the other being THE COMMISSIONER, 1998, written by Stanley Johnson, Boris's father, and exposing the corruption inside the European Union) have both been effectively suppressed because their political messages are too controversial and close to the bone. After all, an ignorant public is how 'bad stuff happens' and 'they' can get away with it, as we are all coming to realize, aren't we? (PS You read this review at your own risk.)

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