Stephen Frears has done some excellent movies documenting recent British social and political history. In this particular movie, he gives us the background to Tony Blair's ascendancy to the leadership of the British Labour Party. After getting a seat in Parliament in 1983, Tony Blair, performed by Michael Sheen, was very much a junior to the formidable Scot named Gordon Brown, a longtime member of the party, played by David Morrissey. We see Blair looking for office space after his election and sharing a room with Brown as the two become friends during the Thatcher era. Brown is an intellectual with a thick Scottish accent and brooding manner. He does his homework and gives a rousing first speech. Tony Blair takes himself and his work much less seriously and seems very much a lightweight but his easy manner and likability pay dividends down the road. I enjoyed David Morrissey in the Gordon Brown role and got an appreciation for the difficult spot he found himself in when he eventually succeeded Blair as leader in 2007. Michael Sheen is a competent actor, playing Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship and also David Frost when he faced Richard Nixon in a series of interviews. The movie is also interwoven with actual film clips from the era of Thatcher, and Labour Leaders Neil Kinnock and Michael Foote. We see how Brown, for all his apparent ambition, seems to hold back when opportunity knocks while the less goal driven Tony Blair eventually sails toward the leadership by force of personality and good luck. This movie was made before Tony Blair stepped down as prime minister and we know Gordon Brown was defeated in 2010 without ever winning an election on his own. Life can be unfair but Tony Blair did in his final years, face difficult times and left office discredited by the war in Iraq. His personal popularity has never recovered. Two great politicians are contrasted here and the movie sheds great light on their personal friendship and rivalry.
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