It’s easy to watch a movie and deliver a review without thinking about the 100s of thousands of little moving pieces that it takes to make a movie successful.
Story, direction, proper casting, dialogue, lighting, sound, editing, craft service table, whether or not the star has had an affair with the married director (Kristen Stewart films) and a host of other things that we are forgetting or don’t want to take the time to mention.
One piece that can either make or break a film is the marketing of said film. And that is where our story begins with The Contender.
The Contender is a great film. It takes a topic (the nomination of a female senator to replace a dead Vice President and the confirmation process) that isn’t all that interesting and turns it into a fascinating tale of morality, principal and trust.
What it is not is a “first rate thriller.”
The marketing for The Contender, however, is a first rate example of how even a very good film that misrepresents itself to its audience can flame out.
Although the film has an incredible cast (including Oscar nominations for both Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges with Gary Oldman being absolutely robbed of one and that’s setting aside Sam Elliott who is fantastic as well), terrific plot, excellent writing (movies like this can easily feature stilted, inorganic dialogue, The Contender completely avoids that) and is wonderfully shot and edited, the marketing of the film makes it out to be something it is not and that dooms it from the outset.
Even the title doesn’t make a ton of sense. The Nominee or something to that effect probably would have been more fitting.
In the end, if you are looking for a tense, political thriller, you are probably going to want to look elsewhere. If you want an excellent (if slightly idealistic and definitely left-leaning) film about the political process, The Contender comes very highly recommended by your neighborhood RockMovieProject.
Four and a quarter Stars from Erin, 5 Stars from Bret.