Retrospective Film Review: Jay Roach’s Game Change

It’s strangely fitting that this review of HBO’s TV movie based on the 2008 United States presidential election campaign came days after Samantha Brick’s woefully misguided article in the Mail Online that reminded us of the nefarious and underhand ways in which the inexperienced and untested can be abused and manipulated.

Here, Sarah Palin’s presence on McCain’s ticket is put down to her impulsive and rash selection and hastily sloppy vetting procedure due to time constraints. As in Brick’s case, it’s easy here to mock the one in the spotlight, but consideration has to be given to those behind the scenes pulling the strings. Game Change based on the book of the same name plays as deliciously as any West Wing episode, even if Danny “Jonathan from Buffy” Strong’s script unwaveringly plays the drama straight down the line. Whilst there’s nary a Sorkin-bite to be heard, Julianne Moore’s Palin rivals Tina Fey’s extraordinary portrayal on Saturday Night Live, scenes from which this Palin painfully watches with moist eyes.

Woody Harrelson is similarly commanding as McCain’s strategist Steve Schmidt, and a near-unrecognisable Ed Harris plays the seasoned McCain himself, heavy-headed with the weight of the knowledge of this campaign being his last chance saloon. The film cleverly cuts stock footage of the crowds, rallies, arenas, journalists, TV reports and interviews into the fiction and the result, though lacking bite, makes for a satisfyingly cogent and weighty couple of hours of television.