In 1992 Labour leader Tony Blair goes to America and is impressed by the policies of President Clinton,which he uses to reshape his party. Two years later he is invited back for an audience with Clinton,who,rightly, predicts that he will be Britain's next Prime Minister.Thus begins the 'special relationship' between the two, though Clinton is clearly the senior partner with Blair seeking his advice on Northern Ireland. The situation in Kosovo however reverses the roles as Blair forces American intervention by a reluctant president and is seen in the American media as the hero of the hour. As Clinton accuses his ally of stabbing him in the back the special relationship starts to sour and,with Clinton ultimately out of the White House,Blair takes his first photo call with the next incumbent,Bush. Written by
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British actor Michael Sheen portrays real-life figures with an eerie degree of precision. In 2008 he took on the tricky part of down-and-out journo David Frost in Frost/Nixon and absolutely nailed it. Then last year he delivered a remarkable performance as hubristic English soccer coach Brian Clough in the lesser seen drama The Damned United. Now in his the third time depicting the former U.K. PM (first in telemovie The Deal, then in the Helen Mirren-starring The Queen) he mimics Blair's mannerisms, vocal tones and overall personality so perfectly that Blair himself couldn't play the role as well.
As the title would suggest though, this drama follows a relationship, which requires a second party. Step in Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton. He doesn't convince on the same level as Sheen Clinton's highly distinguishable accent evades Quaid to begin with but it's not long before the seasoned actor gets in a groove and solidly embodies the beguiling American. Helen McCrory and Hope Davis don't have any difficulty managing their supporting characters, the former as Cherie Blair and the latter as Hillary Clinton. Davis especially is pitch perfect as the intriguing and somewhat imperious U.S. first lady.
Although, predictably, the movie lives and dies by its performances, the screenplay is clever enough to display these people in events that will allow us to connect with them. In the opening act we see how these two world leaders Clinton the suavely aggressive big brother, Blair the amenable and awestruck little brother became friends, then we move on to how they dealt with this 'special relationship' during good times and bad. It's a tremendous friendship to witness, how they and their wives react to certain situations, the Lewinsky humiliation of particular note, indicates what we have probably suspected all along: they are, despite their global status and positions of power, human after all.
An insightful drama that invites you into the lives of some very fascinating people.
4 out of 5 (1 - Rubbish, 2 - Ordinary, 3 - Good, 4 - Excellent, 5 - Classic)
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