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The Special Relationship

4 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From the Oscar®-nominated writer and producers of Frost/Nixon and The Queen comes a powerful new look at the human side of iconic world leaders. In 1993, Tony Blair was a rising young star in British politics. Three years later he ran for Prime Minister – and began a “special relationship” with U.S. President Bill Clinton that endured through triumph, conflict and personal scandal. HBO Films presents Michael Sheen, Golden Globe® nominee Dennis Quaid, Emmy® and Golden Globe nominee Hope Davis, and Helen McCrory in the behind-the-scenes story of two world leaders who forged a loyal, if tempestuous, friendship out of the crucible of political necessity: The Special Relationship.


Terrific performances and an excellent script combine in The Special Relationship, another winner from HBO Films. The title refers to the bond between the United States and Britain in general, but the focus here is on the friendship and political partnership between President Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid) and Prime Minster Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) in the 1990s. It's an intriguing dynamic. Clinton was already into his second term when Blair took office in 1997, at which point England was clearly the tail to America's dog; younger, far less experienced, and somewhat starry-eyed, Blair welcomed Clinton's endorsement, coveted his approval, and was thrilled to get them both. But the roles were reversed not much later when Clinton, caught up in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and unwilling to take a firm stand on the war and ethnic cleansing taking place in Kosovo, was eclipsed by the charismatic, more forthright P.M.--who gave a rousing speech in support of the president, only to find that Clinton had been lying about the Lewinsky affair all along. All of this is delineated in entertaining and often amusing fashion by scriptwriter Peter Morgan (whose earlier films include The Deal and The Queen, both of which also featured Sheen as Blair); his fictional re-creations of private conversations between the principals are fascinating, including Clinton and Blair discussing how to create a permanent center-left majority and especially Clinton's gradual confessions of adultery to wife Hillary (Hope Davis). The casting is also exceptional. Sheen is thoroughly at ease in his role by now, as is Helen McCrory, who also played Blair's wife Cherie in The Queen. The real revelation is Quaid. Though perhaps not an obvious choice, he not only looks and sounds convincingly like Clinton but also captures his charm, swaggering confidence, and consummate political know-how, while Davis is nearly perfect as the woman whose ambition and steely resolve were not about to be sidetracked by Bubba's dogging around. All in all, The Special Relationship is delightful, dishy fun. --Sam Graham

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Sheen, Dennis Quaid, Hope Davis, Helen McCrory
  • Directors: Richard Loncraine
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: November 30, 2010
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003N9ASF2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,678 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Unlike others boasting of Clintons greatness or blasting him and Blair for their horrible atrocities ...I'll review the movie. I received a "screener" and its an hour and a half ..not the 5 or 600 minutes that Amazon.com lists.

Its a good movie...Quaid is very good and Sheen as its already been noted has played Blair twice before and is fabulous. Hope Davis is also terrific as Hillary. If you enjoyed Frost/Nixon, The Queen, or The Deal...you should enjoy this drama.

I can't give it a 5 star review although I was tempted because its a bit lighter weight than say Frost/Nixon which is a solid 5 in my humble opinion.

If you have an axe to grind in either direction on this you may wish to avoid...if you can check your party politics at the door and just enjoy this deliciously well acted big time political "soap opera" then I heartily recommend. Personally ....Quaid laying on the bed with a small television in his lap and continually pounding down Doritos was almost worth it for me...good fun, interestingly written a great diversion for an hour plus...and better in my opinion than most of the 3D and CGI filled theatrical releases of the day.
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Format: DVD
Michael Sheen is to Tony Blair what Raymond Massey was to Abraham Lincoln.

Massey may have had an acting advantage, since there were no movies or sound recordings of the 16th President that could be used for comparison, but Sheen has certainly employed the modern technology to his benefit. Indeed, there are many moments in his portrayal of the former British Prime Minister when you forget that you are not watching the real man.

THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP, from HBO Home Entertainment, marks the third time that Sheen has played Blair on screen. Since the plot centers on him, rather than, for example, Queen Elizabeth, his portrayal in this film is much more comprehensive than his earlier efforts.

Set against world events, Peter Morgan's script is, in essence, a story about a "student" learning from and then surpassing his "teacher".

The "teacher" in this case is President Bill Clinton (Dennis Quaid in a remarkable performance).

Clinton was nearing the end of his first term as President when Blair became Prime Minister. There was an immediate rapport between the two men and, both being liberals, they pledged to make their "special relationship" work and together bring the free world to their political way of thinking. Blair stood by Clinton when the President's embarrassing sexual affairs nearly brought down his Presidency, but the two friends butted heads over the war in Bosnia.

Directed by Richard Loncraine, this fine film examines the nature of friendship in the world of politics. Hope Davis presents a credible performance as Hillary Clinton and Helen McCrory, as Blair's wife, steals every scene in which she appears.

The DVD includes a "Making of" featurette.

© Michael B. Druxman
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By BernardZ on December 25, 2010
Format: DVD
This movie contains almost a child like view of the world. The Americans are somewhat all knowing and wise while the British are naive. It is almost as if the British have done a total reverse of their post ww2 view that the British felt that they were the smart ones in the relationship. It cast doubts as to whether there is a special relationship between Britain and the US, and it also contains the view that Tony Blair was not a progressive which the films sees as a criticism of him.

The filming itself was good. There were times, I was stunned how seamlessly, the movie was able to merge the movie into historical films. I also thought that Dennis Quaid played very well.
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Format: DVD
The movie centers primarily on Tony Blair and how the political genius of Bill Clinton helped him along until student became master. Hope Davis owns Hillary Clinton. She did a better job portraying her than perhaps Tina Fey does Palin. Quaid had down Clinton's speech but he simply didn't look like him. The movie starts with an obscure Blair studying the US 1992 campaign to see how the Democrats turned things around. (It is easier for a political party to change its views than it is to change the views of the people.) Cherie Blair is envious of Hillary because Bill shares his power with her as she is his closest adviser. The movie then moves to Ireland then goes through the Monica scandal and climaxes with Blair becoming the master politician over Bosnia-Kosovo genocide. Ominous music is played when Bush is elected (hint at liberal bias). I found the movie to be extremely interesting and more entertaining than I expected. What the movie doesn't show is how Blair got dismantled over his special relationship with Bush and the Iraqi war, although Clinton's final words were that of a warning to Blair NOT to get close to Bush and questions if Blair is a true progressive. There is some sex talk over the Monica affair and Hillary does drop the f-bomb once.
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Format: DVD
In the realm of made-for-TV movies, there is no question that HBO has been leading the way with critically acclaimed and Emmy nominated fare within recent years. Take 2010, for example, with HBO's "The Pacific" ruling in the mini-series category--three other HBO productions were left battling it out in the film subdivision. "You Don't Know Jack," a Barry Levinson biopic about assisted-suicide maverick Jack Kevorkian, netted 15 Emmy nominations and won Al Pacino a statue as Best Actor. "Temple Grandin," another biopic--this one about the autistic Grandin who became a pioneer in animal husbandry--also garnered 15 nods and was the night's big winner. In addition to Outstanding Made For Television Movie, it won Best Actress for Claire Danes as well as supporting statuettes for David Strathairn and Julia Ormond. And finally, there was "The Special Relationship," depicting the bond between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, which was a bridesmaid with five nominations and no wins. All in all, a good showing for HBO!

Arguably the film with the highest profile and most distinguished pedigree of the three is "You Don't Know Jack." Interestingly enough, it is also my least favorite. There is certainly nothing wrong with "Jack" and I learned quite a bit about Kevorkian, who to my mind is darn near a saint. From a surprisingly humble beginning, Kevorkian was a trailblazer and with single-minded purpose became a figurehead in groundbreaking legal debates about medical ethics. It's a great and fascinating story, but Levinson gives it a surprisingly by-the-numbers presentation. Anyone familiar with the routine cadence of a biopic will agree that this one ticks all the expected boxes. Pacino is refreshingly restrained and, for the first time in years, brings an understated dignity to a role.
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