The Special Relationship

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 November, 2010, 12:00am

The Special Relationship
Michael Sheen, Dennis Quaid, Helen McCrory, Hope Davis
Director: Richard Loncraine

The third instalment of screenwriter Peter Morgan's Tony Blair trilogy (following The Deal and The Queen) is proof of the law of diminishing returns. While the cast deliver impeccable performances and the script contains enough wit and reflections about its subject matter - the bond between Blair (a role reprised by Michael Sheen) and Bill Clinton (played here by Dennis Quaid) - The Special Relationship sacrifices psychological insight for the sake of good drama. Not that Morgan could have crammed that much into his piece anyway, as its 1?hour length confined the film to the more obvious landmarks in the relationship.

It's hardly a surprise that the film - co-produced by HBO and the BBC - was made for television rather than general theatrical release. For all its effort to hint at the legacy of the Clinton-Blair relationship - the irony of Clinton's declaration to Blair that they could together 'put right-wing politics out of business for a generation', or Blair's falling out with Clinton over Nato intervention in Kosovo - The Special Relationship seems more like filler material prior to a forward leap proper. Ending at the point where George W. Bush was elected - a turn which would bring about a new chapter in the Washington-London dynamic - the film seems to offer just a prologue of more ominous and significant things to come.

Clinton's travails during his final four years in office - the Lewinsky affair, the indecision over Kosovo - merely provide a backdrop for Blair's rise to prominence in international politics. While Sheen and Quaid play their roles well - their performances augmented with good support from Hope Davis' Hillary and Helen McCrory's Cherie - it looks very much another telling of the central premise in The Queen, in which a starry-eyed Blair grows from his role as a junior partner in a collaboration to become someone who calls his own shots.

Morgan has shaped Blair as very much a sympathetic character, someone who's less tainted by New Labour spin and more obsessed with doing good - a crusade which sees him proclaiming, in a now famous speech in Chicago, his vision of bringing peace to the Balkans. It remains to be seen how Morgan would treat his favourite character if he were really to nail the final screen instalment to the Blairite legacy.

Extras: interviews, behind-the-scenes footage.