“The Final Year” ought to begin w
This is a movie about the last year in President Obama’s tenure.
Watching Obama and his staff comm
Director Greg Barker (“Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden”) spent much of 2016 following several key players in the Obama administration. Had the year ended differently, his wonkish approach probably would have appealed to a minority of politically-obsessed liberals or film buffs who still stream the 1993 Bill Clinton doc “The War Room.”
Under the current circumstances, though, Barker has given us a film with much broader appeal, one that’s not only absorbing but also essential in its depiction of humane, responsible leadership.
Obviously, the response to any pol
Barker narrows his focus, for the most part, to the former president’s foreign policy team. Rather than inserting himself into the action (we’ll overlook the interm
As the film progresses towards November 2016, the weight of the imminent election does begin to deepen.
This is the point where you may find yourself taking note of how diverse Obama’s staff is. How determined they are to help the disenfranchised, to combat global warming, to reach, as Obama himself says, “for the world that ought to be.”
Power’s respectful kindness as she meets with the Nigerian mothers of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram; Kerry’s righteous outrage at Russian duplicity in Syria; Rhodes’ resolute search for the proper sentiment when Obama visits Hiroshima: all of these scenes, and many others, come across as both immense and intimate, a reminder of the crucial connections between the earth’s citizens.
By the time we get to election night, in which Power joins Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, and several other female diplomats for what they assume will be a thrilling celebration, we’re practically watching through our fingers. A few minutes later, Baker cuts to the shell-shocked Rhodes, a speechwriter who finds himself literally speechless.
A true leader, though, is never at a loss for words, always has a plan, and instinctually knows how to move forward. “I have to remind my staff that history really doesn’t follow a straight line,” Obama concludes, the very image of calm equilibrium in the face of an unexpected, potentially devastating storm. “The trendlines ultimately will be in the direction of a less violent, more empathetic, more generous world.” But the path there, he adds, “requires more individuals fighting for that future.” This movie can only inspire them.