Review: Shadow Land


Fictional former President Robert Wainwright (John Voight – “Megalopolis”) has retired to his expansive ranch, “Shadow Land.” As he plans his memoir, he assembles a team including Rachel Donnelly (Rhona Mitra – “Archive”) to write the book and Elliot Davrow (Marton Scokas – “Sleeping Dogs”), his former psychiatrist, to help him understand recurrent feelings of threat and disturbing dreams. Oh, and Rachel and Elliot used to be married to each other – whith the combination of resentment and attraction still there.

Wainwright, a widower, lives on his isolated ranch with a small detachment of Secret Service guys, led by Brett Cahill (Philip Winchester). As the aging president’s fears and then his sightings of an armed stranger increase, Cahill and Davrow have their credulity stretched. Even a couple of pieces of physical evidence are easily and logically explained away.

Writer Ian Corson (“Falling Through”) has written a reasonably taught mystery involving a fictional former president and a possible plot to drive him mad or even assassinate him. However, unlike so many other tales about retired presidents in danger, Corson gives us a flawed human being haunted by the worst mistake of his presidency.

Wainwright’s dreams involve not only a threat to his life, but also the day he authorized an attack on a nation, Astovia, based on faulty intelligence. This attack had disastrous ramifications for the country attacked (regime change, corrupt authoritarian government, pillaged natural resources), but also for Wainwright’s administration and for the soldiers he put in harms way needlessly. Imagine George Bush and Iraq, but with “W” possessed of even a modicum of self awareness and introspection.

Director James Bamford gets solid performances from most of his cast. Joh Voight looks and even sounds like his real-life hero Donald Trump, even if his acting skills are far above “The Donald.” Marton Scokas is presented as a warm, approachable human being who cares for his patient and for his former wife. However, Rhona Mitra as that wife is cold and detached. She has a pleasant English accent, but her face is stony and on the rare times she shows any expression, it is so fleeting as to perhaps represent an accident – a flub that made it through editing. Not having seen her in other films, I cannot ascribe this to either the director and writers vision of the character, or to her own inability to emote. Certainly the other characters display normal human emotions, so…

The film runs about 90 minutes, which is about right for the material at hand. Editing is crisp, and the other technical aspects are good. The musical score is forgettable.

If you are a fan of stories featuring fictional ex-presidents, or a fan of Jon Voight, this will be a pleasant way to pass some time.

1. This film about an American president, retired to his ranch, was filmed in Sofia, Bulgaria.
2. In 2023, director James Bamford worked on five films, all shot in Sofia. A creature of habit, I guess.
3. In 2017, Elisabeth Kostova, an American writer, released her novel “Shadow Land.” It is the tale of a woman who winds her way through Bulgaria, beginning in Sophia. It contains a host of finely drawn characters, scenes and locales. You might find that “Shadow Land” the novel a better investment in time and intellect.

Runtime: One hour, 29 minutes
Availability: VOD

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