At the end of this holiday weekend, I finally watched The Special Relationship, HBO’s latest original movie production (co-produced with BBC Films). I’m not entirely unbiased about the film, because Cinetic Media’s international division worked on foreign sales for it, but I thought it was quite good. The film is a brisk and involving look at the sometimes united front of U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the late 1990s. The film serves as the third installment in a series of British political films by writer Peter Morgan, featuring actor Michael Sheen as Blair. The Special Relationship provides plenty to chew on, not the least of which is what I found to be the conclusion for Blair: better the devil you know (Bill Clinton) than the devil you don’t (George W. Bush).
However, what struck me from the film was a newbie to these installments: Dennis Quaid portraying Clinton. He’s great in the role, because it’s not just mimicry but full of gravity. For years I’ve wondered, why doesn’t Dennis Quaid receive more respect as an actor? He is consistently engaging and charismatic in almost every performance, and he was severely snubbed of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his turn as a tortured soul in Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven. He was great in other dramatic roles for Wyatt Earp and In Good Company, while winning fans with leading roles in The Rookie and Innerspace. Dennis Quaid’s biggest setback in recent years has been a tendency to sign on for ill-fated fare such as Vantage Point, Horsemen, G.I. Joe, and Pandorum. The guy’s good, though, and maybe The Special Relationship will help remind us of that.