15 April 2003 | Latheman-9
How some governments are made.
Nearly 20 years after its initial release, Sidney Lumet's "Power" is more timely than ever. With the U.S.A. currently under the leadership of an individual who entered the Presidency with no democratic mandate, having lost the general election, who attained office by virtue of a de facto appointment by the United States Supreme Court, and who has since chosen to make the country the aggressor in an internationally condemned war of 'preemption', many Americans are left wondering how such a mental and political lightweight attained the highest office in the land. This film helps make clear the process by which many venal, poorly qualified candidates are able to achieve office in American politics. It portrays the power of the most adept advertising industry in the world as it is used to slickly package a political product for the voting public's consumption, and how foreign economic and political interests can play an important role in the process.
With a sizable cast, it's perhaps not surprising that the quality of the performances varied as widely as they did. Richard Gere does an excellent job as Peter St. John, the packager for candidates running in several different elections through the course of the movie. Denzel Washington displays a reptilian cold-bloodedness as his antagonist, a quality he will bring to full fruition in the later "Training Day" (2001). J.T. Walsh, one of the best at playing villains, is also good in his limited role. Kate Capshaw and E.G. Marshall hold up their parts well, but Julie Christie and especially Gene Hackman are not at their best here. Beatrice Straight received a well-deserved Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actress. After her big scene, there wasn't a piece of the set that didn't have her teethmarks all over it.
The cinematography, by Andrzej Bartkowiak, was terrific, and the musical score complemented the film well, particularly the repeated use of Bennie Goodman's "Sing, sing, sing" with its driving drum solo (by Gene Krupa in the original recording, I believe) used to symbolize St. John's ambition.
Two trivia points: The television game show St. John turns on in his hotel room when he discovers his phone has been bugged is, appropriately, "The Price is Right." The rock outcrop scenery for the political commercial supposedly being filmed in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico is actually part of Vasquez Rocks in southern California, a backdrop that has been used in countless movies and television shows.
As political films go, "Power" is much better than average and well worth viewing. Rating: 7/10.