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Edward de Souza
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Entertaining but not as interesting as it could have been due to it's nature
It is approaching an election in the UK when the leader of the Labour party, John Smith, suffers another in a line of heart attacks and dies. With the leadership campaign about to start the clear choice appears to be Gordon Brown, a stanch Scotsman. However Tony Blair is also beginning to appear more likely as he will appeal to Southern voters who would be turned off by Brown. Blair rings Brown to arrange a meeting to discuss which will go for the job. The film flashbacks to the start of their relationship, sharing an office in Westminster on their first seats.
I have recently seen a BBC political drama (The Project) which was focused around the rise (and perversion) of Labour - it lasted 4 hours and was unlikely to win over anyone who wasn't already suitably informed about the topic. The Deal, on the other hand, is 90 minutes long and is a punchy little summary of the supposed deal brokered between Blair and Brown to prevent them having to battle for the party leadership in the wake of John Smith's death. This is worthwhile as it is likely to attract those not actually into politics but just looking for a reasonable drama to pass the time.
As such it moves along quite well. It covers lot of ground quite quickly and will give those lacking the knowledge (like me) a good understanding of the political landscape of the time. It also has a certain amount of drama
some of which is real and some of which is provided by characters and
sinister direction. The one flaw I did feel it had was that it was a drama and not a documentary, to that end dialogue has been created and scenes are the combination of sources and records. This is still good but it has the effect that we can't take everything at face value - I would have preferred if more sources were clearly defined and the facts more clearly established. The fact that the whole film is a drama means that I couldn't be sure how much of the film (or how little) was actually artistic license.
The cast are good. The better role is Morrissey as Brown. He manages to get his mannerisms right without letting it turn into a impression, he plays him as a dour character (which Brown pleaded innocence of the next day on the BBC, despite claiming not to have seen the film) which is the image many have of him, but he does bring him to life well. Sheen's Blair is also good but is more of a mimic than a real character - it hard to describe but it felt like he had spent more time focusing on the mannerisms than the character , although, that said, he did bring another layer out at some points (witness his face change as Brown leaves the restaurant at the end). Rhys' Mandelson is too much of an effort to be sinister and didn't work for me - the Mandelson that we have seen is more lively and overt than this, he does have his sinister side but the fact that it is in this colourful shell makes it more interesting, that wasn't brought out. The support cast is good but this is a two-hander and the two characters carry it well - even if the restaurant scene is not exactly the equal of Heat!
Overall this works well as a political drama which will reach those not normally reached by this type of material. However the fact that the facts were mixed with dramatised and fictional scenes was a problem for me and I wasn't totally sure what bits were real and what bits were interpreted. Still an enjoyable film nonetheless.
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