Here’s another first for this blog, a film review (or rather, a rant about a TV show). Since I saw it advertised on More 4, I had been waiting impatiently to watch “The Trial of Tony Blair“. The trailers looked great and I’ve liked Robert Lindsay as an actor since “Citizen Smith” back in the 70s. I thought the idea for this programme was a good one; to see Tony Blair (a fictional one unfortunately) on trial at the Hague for war crimes relating to the illegal Iraq war. What a disappointment it turned out to be!
My main gripe is this: How can you have a programme called “The Trial of Tony Blair” without erm… a trial? We only see Blair in the dock once, and that is for the extradition hearing. For me this spoiled the entire show. I was looking forward to seeing Tony Blair answer a well presented case by the prosecution with his defence (whatever that might be). Instead the film finishes as he is bundled off in a prison van to the airport and what we are presented with instead is a series of mildly amusing but not very credible gags which would have been more at home on the “Bremner, Bird and Fortune” show. Because of this the film packs less punch than a newspaper cartoon. Perhaps the film would have worked better as a docudrama, starting in the Hague with pertinent episodes dealt with as a series of flashbacks
Robert Lindsay does look the part but nevertheless fails to convince as Tony Blair. He seems to have borrowed from his performance as the fictional manic Labour councillor Michael Murray in the excellent “G.B.H“. Tony Blair’s deluded character is dealt with far too obviously. Yes, of course Blair is deluded, but the film fails to portray his talent at spin and presentation. This clumsiness was shown in the scenes where he is writing his book and keeps using the soundbite “I felt the hand of history on my shoulder” over and over again, a good gag, just not very believable. One thing about Blair is no matter how cringe-makingly messianic his speeches are, they are well presented; it’s one of the reasons he’s so dangerous. I wasn’t convinced by Phoebe Nicholls portrayal of Cherie Blair either. Peter Mullan did manage to capture the voice, mannerisms and general awkwardness of Gordon Brown but I think all the actors were let down by the script.
Unfortunately this was an opportunity missed. The chance for putting the possibility of Tony Blair being tried for war crimes into the public conscience degenerated into cheap satire. Now that the film has been made and well-received, there is little chance of another one being made covering the same topic. Unless of course the real Tony Blair is carted off to the Hague, but I’m not holding my breath.