Trailer Talk: ‘The Special Relationship’


The trailer looks snazzy — Bill Clinton talks to Tony Blair about running the world. There is an important sounding soundtrack, views of the White House, a lovely Hilary and a seemingly normal Blair family at the breakfast table.

Yes, there is mention of Monica and yes, there is a response by Hilary.

And yes, the film is scheduled for release on Aug. 5, five days after Chelsea’s wedding.

It’s difficult portraying icons we are very familiar with. For example, it was always hard for anyone to successfully play Jackie Kennedy. But Michael Sheen, in his third reprise of the Blair role, really captures that charismatic honesty that exuded from the UK Prime Minister. It’s not that he looks so much like him, but he’s got that eye intensity and voice down.

The characterizations of Hilary, by Hope Davis, and Bill, by Dennis Quaid, on the other hand, seem to miss the mark on the trailer. Quaid just doesn’t exude a Clinton essence for me. However, reviewers have given Davis, as Hilary, rave reviews for her portrayal of a smart, politically agile First Lady who is in loyal to her husband.

This film originally premiered on HBO on May 29, 2010, and was favorably reviewed by Alessandra Stanley for the NY Times. She wrote that “…the film provides a captivating peek into the meshing of personality and power and how easily even the strongest bonds come unglued.”

Produced and written by Peter Morgan, “The Special Relationship” may be considered a third study on Tony Blair. His earlier successful productions included “The Queen,” which included Blair’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren won the Academy Award for her portrayal), and “The Deal,” which chronicled his relationship with Gordon Brown and the inner workings of British politics.

However, there’s something about this trailer that makes me think the production might be a little cynical about politics in general and the Blair and Clinton legacies in particular. I’m always wary when a feature film tries to politicize events or characters.

Maybe it’s related to some of the occasional whimsical soundtrack we hear in this trailer. Or maybe it’s the script and its delivery… like when Blair asks Bill if he’s near a television and from there they make major world decisions — as if their primary briefing is not through their respective staffs but CNN.

It’s not enjoyable to watch the mocking of leaders (or anyone actually) who trip up into ignominy through character flaws. The Clinton tragedy has been smeared around for about 15 years. To bring it up again within a week of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding seems a little mean and opportunistic.

On the other hand, if this film is serious, balanced, and gives us a little insight into how our heads of state make decisions then that is a plus and a good reason to see the film.

Production Credits
Director: Richard Loncraine;
Writer: Peter Morgan;
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Andrew Harries, Mr. Morgan and Christine Langan,
Executive producers: Frank Doelger, Tracey Scoffield and Ann Wingate, producers.
Presented by HBO Films in association with BBC Films.
Produced by the Kennedy/ Marshall Company and Rainmark Films.
Cast: Michael Sheen (Prime Minister Tony Blair), Dennis Quaid (President Bill Clinton), Hope Davis (Hillary Clinton) and Helen McCrory (Cherie Blair)
Release: Aug. 5, 2010

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