Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Blair Trilogy, Part 1

The Deal
Directed by Stephen Frears
Screenplay by Peter Morgan

In 1997, when Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain in a landslide, there was shady business afoot. A year earlier, when popular Labour Party leader John Smith died of an unexpected heart attack, Gordon Brown was tagged as Smith's successor, and he was the politically dominant force. But Tony Blair was the poster child for the party, and any challenge by Brown for the leadership would only serve to damage New Labour in the coming election for Prime Minister. Over an impromptu lunch one afternoon, Brown agrees to step aside, but with certain conditions. Brown is clearly the superior choice, but Blair is in the right place at all the right times.

The Deal encompasses the fifteen years leading up to the 1997 election, and follows the friendship of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as they rise from new members of their party to become its figureheads, and how pursuing "the big job" gets between them. Both David Morrissey and Michael Sheen, as Brown and Blair respectively, are on excellent form, and the movie makes the whole story captivating and interesting. The only thing I can disagree with here, in retrospect, is Blair's portrayal in the writing. Peter Morgan makes it a bit too clear that we're meant to like Brown and dislike Blair, that Brown has worked for this his whole life and Blair is opportunistic. Which would be fine if I hadn't already seen The Queen, the second part of the Blair trilogy, in which Blair is a more balanced creation. This is not surprising, as The Deal is one of Morgan's first published screenplays, and subtly comes to those who wait.

You might find it a bit dry, as it's all based on the dialogue, but that's my favourite kind of entertainment. I like words.

Grade: B+

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