Clinton and Blair’s Special Relationship captured at Turin
by Gabriele Barcaro
30/11/2010 - In 1992 Tony Blair took lessons in “political communications” from Bill Clinton’s experts. A few years later he was invited to the White House, highly unusual for an opposition leader, for his first meeting with the 42nd president of the United States. Eventually, Blair was elected prime minister and in 1997 the shores of the Atlantic had never been so progressive. Clinton has no doubts: “The future of the world is the third way”, the centre-left.
What happened next we all know, including screenwriter Peter Morgan, who in fact ends The Special Relationship with another meeting of leaders, between Blair and Bush at Camp David. The end of an era? The end of the line of a friendship and a political love story? A confirmation of the Labour prime minister’s cynicism. A bit of all of the above, actually, because Richard Loncraine’s film doesn’t just spy through the keyholes of the rooms of power. It seeks in the private behaviour of two leading figures of recent history alibis and clues to their public politics.
Which is perhaps why Morgan’s writing here is freer, less anchored in rigorous chronicling. HBO’s involvement in the film made it more traditional, more flatly television, to the point of dampening its ambitions. It’s a mystery how Loncraine, behind the memorable Richard III, did not seize the Shakespearian potential of this story of betrayal, ambition and jealousy.
The Special Relationship offers another good performance from Michael Sheen, who was already an impeccable Blair in The Deal and The Queen [trailer, film focus] (both written by Morgan, who has now ended his trilogy on the former prime minister). But Dennis Quaid is miscast: he perfectly brings to life Clinton’s “Yankee” exuberance, but is too old for the part. Steely first ladies Hope Davis and Helen McCrory, respectively as Hillary and Cherie, are also great.
Presented out of competition at the Turin Film Festival, The Special Relationship is a UK/US co-production headed by Rainmark Films in collaboration with BBC Films. It will be distributed in Italy on December 10 by Medusa Film and is handled internationally by Cinetic International.
(Translated from Italian)