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A political thriller about Laine Hanson, a senator who is nominated to become Vice President following the death of the previous office holder. During the confirmation process, Laine is the victim of a vicious attack on her personal life in which stories of sexual deviancy are spread. She is torn as to whether she should fight back, or stick to her high principles and refuse to comment on the allegations. Written by
When a politican is placed into a new position, there will be people who support their new title. Then there are those who will oppose. What is sad is that in modern times there are the people who oppose who will do whatever they can to prevent that politican to be elected. In the new political thriller THE CONTENDER, that is what the story is, but it's also a story of kicking someone when they are already down on the groung. President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) has left the country guessing on who will replace the former vice-president who passed away a few weeks eariler. Most politicans and news reporters speculate that the nominee will be Governer Jack Hathaway (William L. Petersen). But President Evans surprises the nation by nominating Ohio Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen). A majority of the women in the U.S. are excited that finally a female is in a high political position. And the male democrats are also pleased because of her political viewpoints. However, there are some male politicans who are not happy to see Senator Hanson take the Vice President chair, espcially Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) who is in charge of a committee who must confirm Senator Hanson's appointment. Shelly enlists a young congressman, Reginald Webster (Christian Slater) to investigate the past history of Senator Hanson, particularly the scandals. While President Evans has his two aids, Kermin Newman (Sam Elliott) and Jerry Tolliver (Saul Rubinek) work around and try to respond to the scandals of Hanson's past so she can still get the public support and the nomination. THE CONTENDER is a film with little action, and it's mostly dialogue scenes for over two hours. Yet, this two hour film will grab onto the viewer's attention for it's film length, making the time go by very very very fast. I was hooked onto this film from the opening scene, and the next thing I realize, the film was already over! This political movie, like the Oliver Stone classic JFK, went by so quickly because the subject and characters are so fascinating that you think this was a documentary. This is one brillant masterpiece film that deals with politics that it will be ranked among MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, and THE CANDIDATE. It is more political fact than fiction, yet this is a story that was written for the screen. The message of this movie is, although you do not agree with the political viewpoints of a candidate, should you do whatever you can to destroy them? Including publicize that candidate's personal past that will humiliate and emotionally scar that person forever. And bring out to the public a past that one would like to forget, to that one's family, friends, fellow workers, and the population of the world. THE CONTENDER asks the viewer those questions, and also asks the viewer, if you were that person being investigated what could you do? I was really amazed on how much of a excellent thriller THE CONTENDER was. The acting by it's cast also made the film more realistic and exciting. Joan Allen is fantastic as the role of the Senator who is the victim of this sexual witchhunt. I thought Julia Roberts in ERIN BROCKOVICH was a shoe-in for Best Actress. But she might lose due to the performance given by Joan Allen, and I personally would like to see Allen get the Oscar. Gary Oldman is at his villainous best in this film. Unlike his villian roles in BRHAM STROKER'S DRACULA and AIR FORCE ONE, his role of Shelly Runyon is cruel and vicious as he not only wants to knock down a opponent but also destory the opponent's life forever. Oldman plays Runyon calm and cool, but his words and actions are similar to a madman. Jeff Bridges is also excellent as the president who despite his candidate's past, still believes that his nominee is worthy of the title and stands by his belief. Sam Elliott is great as well as the political aid who is frustrated by the information that Runyon is releasing to the public, and is trying to either cover up or debate the scandal issues being brought up. And Christian Slater is at his best as the young and ambitious political congressman who will do whatever he can to get into a higher office, yet is blinded by his own ambition. Director/writer Rod Lurie does a marvelous job with this film, by creating a story that would have appeared to be based on a true story, but it isn't. Although it does have similar echoes to the President Clinton/Monica Lewensky scandal two years ago. And Lurie's pacing of this film is fast and captivating. Lurie along with Cameron Crowe deserves a nomination for Best Director, but he deserves to win a Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. His screenplay is so brilliant, his character's have extraordinary discussions between each other. My favorite's where the lunch scene between Allen and Oldman. And the White House gallery scene between Bridges and Slater. Along with the other fantastic films that Dreamworks SKG has released this year, GLADIATOR, CHICKEN RUN, and ALMOST FAMOUS; THE CONTENDER proves that Dreamworks is the studio of the 21st Century. I am pleased that Steven Spielberg is seeing Dreamworks as a studio who releases fantastic films, and not just popcorn fluff. And I would be very curious to hear what real politicans reactions are to this film. I can see them saying that this film is pure "Hollywood" nonsense, but how can it be since it does seem so real? THE CONTENDER along with ALMOST FAMOUS and GLADIATOR will probably be among the films nominated for best picture for this year. And whoever is "greenlighting" these films for Dreamworks, I feel deserves a very HUGE raise. It seems that Dreamworks is stomping out it's competition for the quality of films it's releasing this year. It's time that other studios take Dreamworks more seriously now. As for THE CONTENDER, if ALMOST FAMOUS doesn't get nominated for Best Picture, then I feel THE CONTENDER should get nominated and win! THIS FILM IS A MASTERPIECE!!!!!!! ***** (out of five)
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