C&Ler Nonny Mouse has kindly given us a review of another UK production that I desperately wish would make the hop across "the pond."
On January 15th, at 10:00 pm, More4, the same British television channel that produced and broadcast the excellent ‘Death of a President' will air ‘The Trial of Tony Blair'. Like ‘Death of a President', this is a story set in a fictional future, in 2010, in which Hillary Clinton is President of the United States and Gordon Brown, Blair's finance minister, has taken over as Prime Minister of Great Britain.
‘The Trial of Tony Blair' was written by Alistair Beaton, whose previous feature-length satire, ‘A Very Social Secretary' focused on the real-life affair between former Labour minister David Blunkett and his American lover, Kimberly Quinn. In this comedy-drama, ‘The Trial of Tony Blair', Robert Lindsay reprises his role as Blair which this time concentrates on a future where Blair has retired from politics, and is facing indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. But where ‘A Very Social Secretary' was a wickedly funny romp, ‘The Trial of Tony Blair' has a biting edge that never quite lapses into outright satire. This comedy carries a message with a quite serious intent behind it, blurring the line between what is fiction and what might end up being prediction.
The film begins with all the witty dialogue and ripostes of Beaton's previous ‘A Very Social Secretary' - as Blair dictates his memoires to his assistant, Nicky, expounding with ludicrous grandiosity, ‘My guiding principles are doing the right thing and standing up to evil...', he's interrupted by a deliciously venomous Cherie Blair raving about the Browns moving into Number 10. After she has stomped out, Blair asks, ‘Where were we?' Nicky, played by sweet-faced Claire Skinner, replies with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, ‘Standing up to evil'.
There are several moments of similar humour - Bush in rehab, again, after being found comatose on his ranch (‘Surprised anyone noticed,' Cherie retorts acidly over her breakfast coffee), bantering between David Cameron's airhead PR girls Zoë and Fiona, and a painfully ponderous Gordon Brown with a roomful of unimpressed preschoolers. The meeting between the US Ambassador and Blair had me squirming as the Ambassador reminds Blair that, as Britain recognised the International Criminal Courts, and America didn't, ‘You fall under their jurisdiction. And we don't... We're going to have to say some unpleasant things about you,' the American ambassador tells Blair with expansively faked bonhomie, ‘But I want you to know that we don't mean them.' Also keep an eye out for the quirky visual throw-aways - Schwartzenneger as UN Secretary-General, or the hideous Statue of Liberty electric floor lamp.
But it's the more sombre moments that carry the true weight of this film, Blair now reaping the results of his own influence on everything from criminal justice to national health care. ‘You can't live your life by moral instinct, it doesn't work', Cherie tells a bewildered Blair. ‘The world's changed, Tony, and you don't get it.' Robert Lindsay is an extraordinarily talented actor, better known for his comedic roles, but here he plays the character of Blair with skillful finesse and even pathos; he manages to mimic Blair's intonation and mannerisms without ever falling into outright caricature, avoiding two-dimensional parody, which gives the film a chilling reality. This is a Blair obsessed with his ‘legacy' while tormented by visions of the carnage in Iraq - a brief and powerful scene of a distressed Blair imagining himself holding the body of a dead Iraqi child in his arms punched the breath from me.
Thought-provoking as well as funny, ‘The Trial of Tony Blair' features an impressive cast, from Phoebe Nicholls as Cherie Blair and Peter Mullan as nail-biting Gordon Brown, as well as a first rate supporting essembly which includes Missourian native Colin Stinton, who is rapidly becoming a mainstay for American characters in quality British films, as the US Ambassador.
10 Downing Street, unsurprisingly, has had no comment on this film. But it's sure to make quite a few people mighty nervous, on both sides of the pond.
Tony Blair : Robert Lindsay
Cherie Blair : Phoebe Nicholls
Gordon Brown : Peter Mullan
David Cameron : Alexander Armstrong
Simon : Adrian Scarborough
Nicky : Claire Skinner
Tommy : Mark Bonnar
US Ambassader : Colin Stinton
Written by : Alistair Beaton
Producer : Hal Vogel
Executive Producer : David Aukin
Directed by : Simon Cellan Jones