“You're one of the leaders of the party now Sarah. Don't get co-opted by Limbaugh and the other extremists. They'll destroy the party if you let them.”
- Senator John McCain
Journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s book Game Change looked at the 2008 presidential campaign in its entirety, focusing on the whole mess from start to finish not pulling its observational punches no matter which side of the political spectrum they were focusing upon. The HBO movie Game Change, directed by Jay Roach (The Campaign), written by Danny Strong (Recount), focuses on the last six chapters of the book, analyzing the decision by Senator John McCain and his campaign staff to put little-known Alaskan governor Sarah Palin on the ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate.
Julianne Moore plays Palin, Ed Harris is McCain and Woody Harrelson is senior campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, the man who ultimately made the pitch for the Alaska governor even though he wasn’t the one to originally discover her. Rounding out the cast are the likes of Peter MacNicol, Sarah Paulson, Jamey Sheridan and Ron Livingston, all of whom slip into their respective roles with sensational ease, the line between fictional recreation and news-based reality a thin one thanks to the collective efforts of the entire cast.
The more remarkable thing about the movie is how fair it is. It treats its subjects with respect and warmth, making their failures (whether of intellect, character or judgment) all the more frustrating and sad. Things fall apart for the McCain campaign to such a bewildering extent one almost wonders how President Barack Obama didn’t win by an even wider margin, watching it happen a sad commentary on the nature of today’s political environment and the way media and fringe elements (on both the Right and the Left) end up being so eager to devour their own the moment even the tiniest hint of blood enters the water.
It’s a scathing satire, and Roach and Strong do not pull their punches or hesitate to showcase things in as documentary-like a way as possible. It helps that both Moore and Harrelson give close to career-defining performances, the way in which both so effortlessly slip into their respective roles finding shadings and dimensions I’d have previously thought impossible borderline extraordinary.
It’s doubtful a movie like Game Change will change that many opinions or minds because, as the authors themselves so readily point out (and as the film itself showcases) many on the Right and the Left are so beholden to their beliefs little things like ‘facts’ or ‘truth’ seldom dissuade them from moving forward on anything close to an intellectual level. At the same time, here’s hoping as many people as possible give Roach and Strong’s adaptation a look, the insights that is delivers and the commentary it levels against the status quo are too strong, and much too important, to ultimately ignore.
Game Change is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.78:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 2.0 tracks and features optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Not a lot of extras to talk about here, only two featurettes (Creating a Candidate, Game Change: The Phenomenon) on display for fans of the film to dig into. The thing is, even though both feature the involvements of authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann they’re each so freakishly short there’s little of value to the watching of them. It’s frustrating, and considering just how great the movie itself is the fact HBO didn’t decide to include a bit more with this release is more than a tiny bit bewildering.
Game Change is wonderful, an incisive, intelligent and thoroughly engrossing journey into modern day politics and the way things can so easily spiral out of anyone’s control. Red or Blue, Democrat or Republican, no matter what your persuasion there’s ton of value to be found in the watching of this excellent motion picture, and while HBO’s Blu-ray presentation could be better the movie itself so fantastic if it’s technical attributes were bottom-of-the-barrel bad I’d still be urging viewers to give it a look from the highest mountain top all the same.