A lefties delight

The Trial of Tony Blair

on June 14, 2007 by Robert Kovacs, Our Writer in Budapest

Is the case in the title something that is possible, or just plain ridiculous? Simon Cellan Jones's The Trial of Tony Blair aired only on Brittish Channel 4 so far, but it should be shown more. At a mere 72 minutes, this satiric, and easy-going movie is a must-see if you're not too politicaly sensitive.

London, 2010, election year. Soon to be ex-prime minister Tony Blair resigns from power to make the shift easier for the next generation, and perhaps to ease his own conscience. We follow him through the next couple of months, as he dawns on the fact that not only 250 million Arabs hate him, but he's an excellent candidate for a scapegoat in the eyes of his political buddies and not-so buddies. He comes through in the witty and entertaining portrayal of Robert Lindsay as a somewhat flippant bloke, who has almost trained himself to believe in his heritage, that he was, "Doing the right thing, and standing up to evil.” A direct quote from his memorandum.

His political adversaries are like the best comical characters here. His successor, Gordon Brown is a clumsy Michael Palin character from Monty Python. Peter Mullan plays him marvelously, with a thick, far-from-BBC English accent, and an odd hairdo. Tory candidate Bian Haw is a parody of a vote hunter as he tries to be PC, green, young, and ever forward at the same time. At one point he asks his staff if the segment on vegetarian Muslims is significant? The answer is: they're probably non-existent.

Even the new US administration, with President Hillary Clinton is all political. The main reason she doesn't support Mr. Blair is that the public hates the Iraqi war, and she's preparing for her next term.

No moral victors here. Finally they all set up Tony to be tested in the International Court of Hague for war crimes against the Iraqi people.

Poor Tony. It's in this sense the movie is ambiguous. The parts where Blair has visions and dreams of war, with dead Iraqi children is a bit eye-rolling. At one point he's a lovable comical gem of the misunderstood man who thinks of himself as a hero, the next minute he's ripped apart by doubt. Sometimes these scenes seem a bit out of place, but never to the point where they ruin the fun.

"Fun" is perhaps controversial, considering the central theme. The war on Iraq is the main thing we remember Tony Blair. Are we allowed to joke about that? Can it be tongue-in-cheek? As someone who (fortunately) isn't involved directly in it, I would say yes, with care. Perhaps the inner-doubt scenes had this purpose, to show that the filmmakers care.

It's a brilliant film to loosen up the tension of our times, and perhaps provoke a thought or two.

Distributor: Channel 4 Television Corporation
Cast: Robert Lindsay, Phoebe Nichols, Robert Bowman, Adrian Scarborough, Peter Mullan
Director: Simon Cellan Jones
Screenwriter: Alastair Beaton
Producers: Hal Vogel, Laura Julian, David Aukin
Genre: Satire, Drama
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 72 mins
Release Date: 15 January 2007 in the UK

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