Released by: HBO
Released on: January 8, 2013.
Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris
Year: 2012 Purchase From Amazon
Directed by Jay Roach for HBO and based on part of the book of the same name written by Danny Strong and Mark Halperin, 2012’s made for TV movie Game Change begins in the summer of 2008. Senator John McCain (Ed Harris) has received the Republican Party’s nomination to run for President Of The United States. There’s a problem, however – Democratic candidate Barack Obama has a substantial lead in the poles. McCain needs a way to connect with voters outside the Republican base. Enter political strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) who comes up with the idea of linking McCain to a younger female candidate, a sort of media darling able to light a bit of a fire under the campaign in hopes of connecting with those already swaying towards the Democratic candidate.
Enter Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore), who makes an immediate mark on MCain’s campaign. The media eats up every word she says, positive or negative, and before you know it she’s helping to draw those voters McCain needs. Soon though, Palin’s shine starts to diminish. Saturday Night Live starts to cash in with Tina Fey's frighteningly spot-on impersonation. Left and center media outlets start making rather barbed criticisms of Palin, as she starts to crack under the mounting pressure. As she makes more and more public flubs, the Katie Couric interview being a big one, Schmidt decides the only way to prep her for the spotlight is to keep her on a series of professionally written scripts, something that comes in handy when she has to debate Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden, but when she decides she doesn’t want to use the scripts anymore, things get… interesting.
Too soon? No, not at all. While 2008 may seem like only yesterday, the onslaught of media surrounding Palin’s rise and fall was astronomical and in many ways unprecedented – dangerously so, really. It got to the point where you couldn’t get away from her no matter how hard you tried. Game Change approaches this fairly, though those with an affinity for the harder side of right wing politics may disagree. Moore plays Palin incredibly effectively – she doesn’t play her as an imbecile or as an airhead as would have been easy to do, but as equal parts caring and calculating. Now, given that the book this is all based on has been bashed pretty hard in certain circles for relying on information from anonymous sources, maybe some of what we see transpire here should be taken with a grain of salt, but certainly not all of it as the copious amount of news footage that was broadcast during the 2008 election cycle, still readily available online, can prove.
Getting back to the production itself, however, it’s easy to see why Moore won the accolades she did for her work here. She’s so convincing at times that it’s almost like you’re watching the real Palin. Her work here is reason enough on its own to want to watch this, yet Ed Harris as McCain is just as good, playing the part with some legitimate nobility and if he’s not the dead ringer for McCain that Moore is for Palin, he gives the part charisma and sensitivity. Harrelson, likewise, is very good here as is the rest of the supporting cast.
Is it biased? Maybe a bit, but it’s hardly the smear job some would have you believe it is and it’s as much about the media circus that catapulted its subject to stardom as it is about Palin herself. This will all be lost on anyone going in with predetermined expectations in regards to how it treats Palin but there’s depth here, not just in the acting but in the social commentary that the script provides; in the way that it tackles the pros and cons of the constant barrage of up to the minute news updates and celebrity worship that is now so ingrained in the life of the common citizen.
The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on the Blu-ray release of Game Change is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Colors look perfect, black levels are strong and skin looks like skin. There is no evidence of filtering or noise reduction while the image strays consistently bright, clean and colorful as it shows excellent texture and detail throughout. There are no problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement and aside from some deficiencies inherent in the source material of some of the stock clips and news footage clips used in the movie, Game Change is a very impressive looking Blu-ray.
Audio options are provided in English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and in French DTS 5.1 Surround Sound and Spanish DTS 2.0 Stereo with removable subtitles offered up in English SDH, French and Spanish. For a movie that’s heavy on dialogue, the lossless track here is quite involved. The quieter moments offer some nice subtle ambient noise while the larger scenes, such as convention appearances, have some nice directional effects and a considerably more grandiose sense of sound design to them. The score sounds good, the dialogue is clear and the levels are properly balanced. This isn’t the type of movie you put on as demo material but for what it is, the disc sounds great.
There isn’t a whole lot here in terms of extra features but we do get a seven minute featurette entitled Creating A Candidate in which Game Change writers Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, join with Politico editor-in-chief John Harris, political strategist Ed Rollins, and a bunch of CNN’s political staff to discuss how constant news updates via twenty four hour news channels and the internet can go a long way towards making or breaking someone’s career in politics. Additionally, the disc includes a four minute segment called Game Change: The
Phenomenon, which is a quick talk with Mark Halperin and John Heilemann about turning their book into a movie. Both of the short featurettes are presented in high definition. This is a combo pack release, however, so you get a DVD version and a digital copy of the movie here too.
The Final Word:
Whether your politics lean left, right or stand somewhere in the middle, it’s hard to deny the fact that Game Change is a really well made movie, one that rises above its made for TV roots and manages to be both entertaining and genuinely thought provoking. The fact that it’s very well acted, particularly on the part of Moore, doesn’t hurt and neither does the fact that the movie doesn’t take on the entirety of the book it was based on. HBO’s Blu-ray is short on extras but it looks and sounds excellent. Anyone with an interest in recent politics ought to check this out – it’s a very impressive piece of work.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!