Detailing how the government of UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dealt with the Falkland Islands War of 1982, The Falklands Play has a long history. One of the most controversial productions ever commissioned by the BBC, The Falklands Play was unproduced for nearly two decades when it was finally aired on BBC Four in 2002. Originally unproduced due to being deemed to be too pro-Thatcher and jingoistic in its tone, The Falklands Play is an intriguing example of historical drama and the controversy it can cause.
The film certainly has a fine cast. Patricia Hodge excels as Thatcher or at the very least playing the Thatcher portrayed in the script. Hodge's Thatcher is a strong willed woman who refuses to back down under any circumstances. The supporting cast includes strong performances from James Fox as Foreign Secretary Lord Peter Carrington, Clive Merrison as Defence Minister John Nott, Colin Stinton as US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, John Woodvine as Admiral Sir Terence Lewin and Tom Chadbon as Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse. Each of their performances, and those of much of the rest of the cast, gives the film a strength that it needs.
The production values of The Falklands Play are strong as well. Melanie Allen's production design captures the real life settings of the film including an excellently done set of the House of Commons. The film's cinematography is exceptional as well with its cinema verite approach. The result is that the film is given a strong documentary feel to the entire film, giving the viewer the sense of watching history unfolding before them. The film also makes strong use of documentary footage from the time as well, mixing it skillfully into the drama. Like the performances, these elements give the film a strength that it needs.
The script by Ian Curteis is at the heart of the film. The script after all was the single most controversial aspect of the production for almost twenty years. Back in the 1980s, the BBC deemed the script to be too pro-Thatcher and jingoistic in its tone. Looking at the film itself, it is very easy to see how that came about. The strong willed portrayal of Thatcher and her handling of her the situation is certainly pro-Thatcher. Also the film's portrayal of the decisions leading to the sinking of the Argentinian warship the General Belgrano, one of the most controversial events of the war, can certainly be seen to be pro-Thatcher. Surprisingly, the script used in the film isn't even the one originally written in the 1980s as it removes all the scenes involving the Argentinian Junta and the Pope. One suspects that the reaction the film would have gotten in the 1980s when it was supposed to have aired would have been similar to the reception that the 2003 Showtime film DC 9/11: Time Of Crisis (a film about President George W. Bush's handling of the 9/11 attacks and the lead up to the invasion of Afghanistan) received when it aired: being seen overwhelmingly as a piece of propaganda. The Falklands Play definitely isn't that but it is all too easy to see how it could have been seen as such.
The Falklands Play is an interesting film. It has strong performances from its entire cast and also features strong productions values especially with its cinematography. The script however is the film's most interesting point as it was the source of controversy that kept the film from originally being made to begin with. With hindsight, it is easy to see why the script proved so controversial at the time and why it could remain so today. The Falklands Play therefore is an interesting film about a controversial war and a intriguing piece of historical drama.
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