A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Ricky Gervais
Written By: Ricky Gervais
Produced By: Chris Coen, Aaron L. Gilbert, Ricky Gervais, Ted Sarandos, Manuel Munz, Larry Sanitsky
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, Vera Farmiga
Running Time: 100 Minutes
There’s certainly no nocking the work ethic of Ricky Gervais. If he’s not working on a hit television series with Karl Pilkington, he’s touring the globe with his monumental stand-up. When he’s not on tour, he’s sitting down behind a microphone, conquering the iTunes charts with his pioneering array of podcasts, and when he’s not publishing his audio ramblings on about various goings on in the world, he’s making films.
The man is a nonstop and workhorse, which is a true credit to the self-made divisive celebrity. Gervais’ latest cinematic outing, as part of his ongoing affiliation with Netflix, sees him venture out of the office and into the field. It’s a film with a solid enough premise, but a very underwhelming execution. Special Correspondents, Gervais’ third directorial feature following The Invention Of Lying (2009) and Cemetery Junction (2010) is a classic tale of dishonesty getting out of hand, a web of lies being spun uncontrollably and the boy who cried wolf-effect coming into fruition. It may be Gervais’ least impressive film to date, but it’s not the be all and end all for the versatile comic.
Confident New York radio journalist Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) and his technician Ian Finch (Gervais) are assigned a task to travel abroad and report on a rebel uprising in Ecuador. Following a mishap involving certain crucial plot devices, the pair are forced to conjure up an elaborate lie and convince the public they are in fact overseas as planned, whilst inconspicuously roaming New York trying to buy themselves more time.
Of course, as these stories tend to play out, certain factors come in to play which could potentially jeopardise their cover, exposing their true whereabouts and landing the pair in serious trouble.
The return of a leading Eric Bana to the big screen is enough of a refreshing sight to see, however to see him undertake a role in a film that taps into his comedic origins is even more appealing. This time playing the straight guy to Gervais’ sympathetic schmuck sidekick, Bana tries his darnedest in Special Correspondents, giving his character some emotional weight with a few layers. This is actually saying quite a lot, given how thin the script has established the central protagonists to be.
Not having much of a significant and effective ark, whilst being lacking in depth, Bana (and his co-star/writer/director for that matter) are able to establish somewhat of a contrasting dynamic, yet there is certainly room for more, much more.
The inclusion of Vera Farmiga is a welcomed one as she is able to bring an irritating, calculated antagonistic element to the table that fits the tone of the film rather well. Although she looks and feels like a snug fit into the world of Special Correspondents, her story and development is quite ridiculous, to the point where one could be left profusely scratching their head, wondering if there was a crucial plot point they missed somewhere along the way.
There’s a fine balance and level of chemistry between the three central characters of Special Correspondents, however a solid story needs to be in place with laughs that hit to carry these characters through a considerable and interesting journey. It’s truly surprising to discover how unfunny and predictable Gervais’ script is. This is anything but his finest work.
When you’re next surfing Netflix and you’re wondering what will help in killing a couple of hours, it would be wise to scroll right past Special Correspondents. It’s by no means one of the worst films of the year, it simply doesn’t have anything to draw you in to the story, nor does it leave you with anything come its conclusion.
The script is questionable at points, and even some of the humour is cheap and lazy, however Gervais showcases yet another facet of his incredibly tight and busy lifestyle with his third directed feature, and he should be praised for that at least.
Some advice for Mr Gervais however, would be to stick to your strengths such as writing for television, stand-up comedy, podcasting, acting in films written by others and being one of the funniest talk show guests on the planet; there’s always something special to be found there.