Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. Germany/USA, 2006. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Relativity Media, Phoenix Pictures, VIP 3 Medienfonds, VIP 4 Medienfonds, Rising Star. Screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren. Cinematography by Pawel Edelman. Produced by Ken Lemberger, Mike Medavoy, Steven Zaillian. Music by James Horner. Production Design by Patrizia von Brandenstein. Costume Design by Marit Allen. Film Editing by Wayne Wahrman. Toronto International Film Festival 2006.
An impressive cast is wasted around a two-hour Oscar speech by Sean Penn, who is impressive but has been given too much free reign to go crazy in this remake of the Robert Rossen 1949 Oscar winner. Penn plays a good ole boy from Louisiana who rises to the top of the political game as governor of the state before his shady tactics do him in. Unfortunately, writer-director Steven Zaillian never really lets us know what his tragic flaws are other than a penchant for bullying people and fooling around with loose women (and since when was that a surprise in a film about a politician?), leaving us with a character study about an enigmatic man who we never get to know and are never particularly interested in. The standout elements of the film are gorgeous cinematography by Pawel Edelman and a magnificent performance by Jude Law, who steals the show outright as a skeptical journalist torn between loyalty to the old boys club of aristocrats running the state, and his genuine desire to see the popular voice win out (it must be a great part, since John Ireland stole the show from Broderick Crawford in the original). Other members of the cast, including Patricia Clarkson in a role that won Mercedes McCambridge an Oscar, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins, are relegated to mere window dressing in a mess of a drama that builds for two hours without any particular focus and then wraps itself up in an overly quick, unsatisfying conclusion.