On the surface, The Deal seems like a companion piece to the critically acclaimed Academy Award winning motion picture The Queen as both films share the same director (Stephen Frears), writer (Peter Morgan) and even the same actor (Michael Sheen) portraying the same character. That character of course is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and while in The Queen he wasn’t the primary focus, The Deal marks the first entry into Morgan’s “Blair Trilogy,” according to Variety. Recently shown on HBO after first being acquired by The Weinstein Company and produced by Granada Television’s Channel 4, the film was dropped by its first production company as who were worried about the film’s controversial political content (IMDb).
Reportedly based on author James Naughton’s book The Rivals, The Deal’s “rivals” in question are none other than Tony Blair and current Prime Minister Gordon Brown (played in the film by David Morrissey). As an American, I knew little about the Labour Party or Brown and my only knowledge of Tony Blair came from newspapers and CNN so after I began watching Frears’ film, I stopped it within minutes to go do greater research on the history of the party and feel that prior knowledge does greatly enhance one’s understanding of the politics. However, talented writer Peter Morgan is a superb storyteller and his screenplay is less politically motivated and more focused on the human dynamics and interaction between the two great men as they began as colleagues in the 80’s until political ambition, drives, and a spoken hypothetical agreement is called into question years later when, according to the film, Blair usurped the spotlight and they became friendly rivals. While Sheen stole the scenes he was in opposite the great Helen Mirren in The Queen, the real star of The Deal is Morrissey who gives a fully realized performance as Brown, managing to capture the passion, intellect and integrity as well as the flaws with the utmost respect. For his performance, Morrissey earned a Best Actor award from the Royal Television Society, UK and BAFTA and although, I may have had a different reaction to the piece being that I had little in the way of prior acquaintance of the facts and figures, so it’s be excellent to hear what viewers from the UK thought, for my money, I felt more invested and caught up in The Deal than I did by the more polished and cinematic award winning Queen.
Order the Tony Blair Trilogy