The Deal (2003)

Before making the award-winning picture The Queen, director Stephen Frears made a film in 2003 titled The Deal that is now known as “The Prequel To The Queen”. But the real question is, has he always been a great director or did he evolve gradually into an Oscar-nominated filmmaker?

The Deal is a political drama, more along the lines of being a character study, that follows the true life story of Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) and Gordon Brown (David Morrissey) as they strike a remarkable deal. The deal made between the two stipulated that Brown wouldn’t stand in the 1994 Labour leadership election, thereby allowing Blair to have an open run at eventually becoming the Prime Minister of Britain.

Stephen Frears directs the cast exceedingly well and it is obvious that his talent has been apparent long before The Queen, as demonstrated in both The Deal and the 1990 crime drama The Grifters. In The Deal the acting is stellar, the direction is solid, and the script is intelligent. However, the political aspect of the film is truly overwhelming and leaves those outside of politics in the dark.

In fact, there is so much political double-talk that my head was spinning in confusion. If you’re not familiar with political lingo (or you don’t even follow politics for that matter), you will probably have a hard time following the complex dialog. Those of you who are interested in minute political details might find it compelling, but others will be exhausted and completely lost as to what’s going on.

There is an intriguing orchestrated score in the film that felt like a complete waste. Such an appealing score by composer Nathan Larson could’ve been used in a much more gripping film, one that has at least some mild intensity surrounding it.

This is a film that is strong in most critical aspects (directing, editing, acting), but lacks a plot interesting to those unfamiliar with political jargon; one that will fade from memory quickly and doesn’t have a sustaining effect on casual viewers. While it is a very well made movie, it just lacks the ability to captivate those who aren’t familiar with the source material. It all results in consecutive yawns and prolonged blinks of boredom.

While this is a film that I can’t recommend and have absolutely no desire to ever watch again, I can say that its target audience (those interested in politics) will find themselves greatly captivated. For me it was a supremely prosaic and profoundly tedious true life story, a movie that will find a balance between those of us interested in political debates and those of us who could just care less.  2/5 stars

The DVD’s special features include feature commentary by writer Peter Morgan and producer Christine Langan, a conversation with director Stephen Frears, and biographies.

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