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Blu-ray Review: Game Change

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Game Change won five Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries/Movie, Outstanding Casting, Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Writing, and Outstanding Lead Actress. It was also nominated for seven other awards. Now it awaits its fate with multiple nominations for the Golden Globes, Writers Guild, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

If you haven’t already gotten the chance to watch Game Change, you’re in luck. On January 8th, the HBO movie will be released on Blu-ray and DVD.

The story is based on a book of the same name by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, which tells the tale of the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Actually, the book covers much, much more territory than the movie, especially the Democratic primary. but to adapt it all would have been too massive an undertaking. Instead, the HBO adaptation focuses on the last part of the book, which covers the selection Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore, 30 Rock, Crazy, Stupid, Love) as John McCain’s running mate and the race to the finish line with a vice presidential candidate not ready to handle a national campaign.

Before you dismiss Game Change as partisan nonsense, as some on the right have accused it of being, you should first watch it. As a character study, it stays pretty fair, thanks to writer Danny Strong (Recount)’s reliance on real events, without pushing a specific agenda, letting viewers make their own judgments. It is also like watching a disaster movie in a way, as we observe the inept and unprepared Palin come very close to the heights of power, admittedly a view made based solely on my own judgment.

Game Change goes beyond Palin’s missteps and slip ups and allows viewers behind the scenes of a hotly contested presidential election. John McCain’s (Ed Harris, Appaloosa, The Hours) staff, and in particular advisor Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson, Cheers, Zombieland), tries to manage Palin, and keep her from costing them the victory. The trouble is, Palin isn’t willing to just follow their orders, though why she resists is up for debate.

As the Emmys acknowledged, the casting is fantastic. Moore gives a sincere performance as Palin, far from Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live caricature, while Harrelson delivers something far beyond an impersonation. The supporting players include Peter MacNicol (Numb3rs), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story), Jamey Sheridan (Homeland), and Ron Livingston (Office Space), each of whom really add to the complete picture.

What emerges is a strong movie, with wonderful acting, and an authentic feel. It may come a little too soon for some who don’t wish to relive those days only four years later, but it will definitely serve as a nice historical film, maybe even used in history classes to keep events a bit more alive than dry text. 

Blu-ray is a nice way to purchase Game Change because of the clarity of image. Viewers will get to see every nuance of Moore’s performance in HD, as well as appreciate the detail that went into the sets, costumes, and makeup. Obviously, Game Change isn’t full of special effects, but visually, it’s near perfect, and will definitely allow one to easily get sucked into the story. Even the color variations don’t feel like mistakes, because of the documentary-style filming, and the blacks are deep and gradational, rather than flat.

There isn’t a lot to say about sound, since not much is going on, other than speaking, though the score by Theodore Shapiro is nice for what it is, delivered with nary a pop or hiss, flowing smoothly below the action. More importantly, the dialogue is clear, and what sound effects are present come across just as they should.

Sadly, there are only two special features with this release. One ponders the qualities needed to make a viable candidate for the highest office in the land. The other, more relevant, is about the film, how it was adapted from the book, and the real-life drama that inspired it. This second featurette was interesting, but I wish there would have been a bit more in depth.

Game Change will be available on Blu-ray January 8th.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com