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Review: The Special Relationship


The Special Relationship is an important dynamic in world politics. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Macmillan and Kennedy, Clinton and Blair, and perhaps most influential Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

Michael Sheen, now on his third take playing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has his role down pat. When the camera starts rolling all trace of Sheen is gone. Only Blair's perma-grin and inclination to always do right remains. Like Frank Langella in Peter Morgan's other effort Frost/Nixon, Dennis Quaid doesn't particularly look like the former president he is portraying, but nails the attitude - and even the accent.

Tony Blair is in awe of Bill Clinton at the beginning of the film, a candidate for Prime Minister he seeks the backing that President Clinton has made for himself in the United States, a foundation built on center-left policies. Clinton advises the young candidate that while policies are important, the image is where your future lies (foreshadowing at its best). The two get on quite well, sometimes to the playful belittling of Blair's wife Cherie (Helen McCrory who reprises her role from The Queen). All of this changes when the Lewinsky scandal comes to light.

Now this portion of the film is where Hope Davis dashes the carpet under the feet of her co-stars. Davis, who without the aid of a second glance would almost assume is the former first lady, really shines during the Lewinsky portion of the film. It could have been a weepy, woe-is-me performance but Davis gives it the resilience that Hillary Clinton is best known for.

Blair's friendship comes crucially to President Clinton at his time in need and all is made well. Their friendship is put to the test again, however, when military intervention in Kosovo is suggested only to be slapped down by NATO and President Clinton. My biggest complaint with the film is its blow-by-you runtime of only 93 minutes. More could have been made of the Kosovo conflict between the two world leaders, but the resolution feels rushed and the film suffers for it.

**1/2 out of ****

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