Directed by: Stephen Frears | 82 minutes | drama | Actors: David Morrissey, Matt Blair, Michael Sheen, Dexter Fletcher, Philippe De Grossouvre, Eilidh Fraser, Frank Kelly, Stuart McQuarrie, Ian Hanmore, Nick Falk, Paul Rhys, Jon Snow, Stuart Bowman, Roshan Rohatgi, Gordon Morris, Gordon Kennedy , Jayne McKenna, Elizabeth Berrington, Jessica Oyelowo, Glenna Morrison, Peter Morgan
The English television movie “The Deal” is about political events that have more weight than you might think at first glance. The film tells about the relationship between Tony Blair and his political buddy and later rival Gordon Brown. “The Deal” makes it clear that the battle for Labor leadership (around 1997) might as well have been decided in Brown’s favor. And had the English Social Democrats embraced neoliberalism just as quickly?
“The Deal” begins when Brown and Blair share a glorified broom closet as a study in the parliament building. Years of companionship followed, until the death of Labor leader John Smith ended the friendship. Until the death of Smith, the film has an objective tone, in which Blair and Brown are portrayed equally mildly. After Smith’s death, the makers clearly choose Brown. While Brown and co mourn their beloved leader, Blair pays a sneaky visit to party strategist Peter Mandelson to promote himself to the leadership. And when it comes to the deal in the title (we will not reveal which deal it is) Blair shows himself as a tough liar.
Because of this strong preference for Brown, “The Deal” seems like a film with a political agenda, especially when you consider that it dates from 2003, a year and a half before parliamentary elections. It makes the message somewhat outdated, as this is a film with an expiration date anyway. The story has no deeper themes; if “The Deal” was about fictional politicians, it would be a lot less interesting. But as long as Brown and Blair are still remembered …
For viewers who enjoy political drama, “The Deal” is well worth it. In the best British tradition, the dialogues are intelligent and witty and the acting is above average. Director Stephen Frears (“The Queen”, “Dangerous Liaisons”) also incorporated a lot of raw archive footage into the film, shooting equally raw “new” archive footage with his own cast. It increases the truthfulness of “The Deal” and gives you as a viewer the feeling that you are watching an amusing history lesson. And that was probably exactly the intention of the makers. Remember because of that political agenda?