Set after Blair (Michael Sheen) has become PM, the focus switches to his relationship with Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid), the US President with whom he forges an immediate bond. Into the mix comes the scandalous spectre of Monica Lewinsky and that dress...
And thus we reach Episode III of Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair saga: which, like another Episode III, sees its ‘hero’ finally turning to the Dark Side. Where The Deal dipped into the source of the Brown/Blair rivalry, and The Queen focused on his early days as PM and his first crisis, The Special Relationship traces his friendship with Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid).
The obvious theme is how the personal affects the political, so Morgan and director Richard Loncraine are as concerned with the mechanics of two other ‘special’ relationships: Tony with Cherie (The Queen’s Helen McCrory) and Bill with Hillary (an excellent Hope Davis). Unsurprising, then, that the Lewinsky scandal forms the film’s centrepiece. Yet Sheen’s Blair is at the core, and how he becomes infected by the Clintons’ obsession with legacy, before sliming to the Right and hogging the world stage.
As you’d expect, the performances are expertly transformative — Quaid’s Arkansas croak is astonishing — but the rushed pace leaves you wondering if the subject-matter would have been far better serviced by a mini-series.
The performances are as impressive as you'd expect and there's plenty of delving into the real men - and egos - behind the office, but the challenge of squeezing so much into 90 minutes just about defeats Morgan's script. Close but no cigar.