Saturday, 16 August 2008

No.25 : Wag the Dog

IMDb Link :

‘Wag the Dog’ is a 1997 political satire that boasts a host of stars including Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman and Woody Harrelson.

The film opens eleven days before a presidential election and there’s trouble at the White House ; the President has been caught with his pants down. Before the story breaks spin doctor DeNiro hires Hollywood producer Hoffman to invent a war which will keep the scandal off the front pages. This task is successfully completed with the US’s phoney war against Albania helping the incumbent’s ratings no end.

Unfortunately William C Macy’s CIA agent hasn’t picked his new boss yet and details of the fiction are leaked to the opposition candidate. When he declares the war over the stakes are raised and a hero has to be found to save the day. He comes in the shape of Woody’s ‘Old Shoe’ - but have our guys bet on a lame horse?

With the election imminent the lost hero of the Albania conflict has to be showcased but the plane is going down and Woody’s record starts with ‘raped a nun’ and there’s an ‘and’ after that…

This film is a rare beast - a political satire that manages to be both witty and funny without hammering home some obvious message. The fictitious war and media spin seem so credible, even more so given recent events. The President who is never seen is portrayed almost as a puppet, happy to spew out any old story his agents give him.

The highlight of the film for me were the ‘Old Shoe’ scenes where packs of willing celebrities are happy to endorse and sing for a totally invented hero who has a less than distinguished past. I was slightly let down with the blacker than black finale, and I found it less than credible that Hoffman’s character would act with such, albeit self serving, integrity. That said in a film where the message is ‘image is everything’ maybe it wasn’t so far fetched.

Fast moving and without an ounce of fat on the plot or dialogue ‘Wag the Dog’ sets the benchmark for all political satires in the modern age. Just a pity Bill Clinton came along and made it look like a documentary!

Best Bit : Woody’s mental turn

W’ Rating 19/23

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