Now that the first public hearings for impeachment are wrapping up, you guessed it, there’s a movie out! Director Armando Iannucci, who is known for political satires like In the Loop and The Death of Stalin, has released a first-rate mockumentary of the hearings. At the risk of exaggeration, this might be the most explosive, hysterical, relevant movie of 2019.
The director is boldly steering clear of partisanship by lampooning both parties. While the comic tone certainly adds levity to what has been a tense past few weeks, there is a deeper gravitas at play that lends itself to bipartisan introspection. Given that the film is heavily character-driven, with a star-studded cast to boot, I’ll be doing a deep dive into the performances that make the movie such a success.
Steve Buscemi as Adam Schiff
Buscemi embodies the sleazy fish-eyed muckiness of the real Schiff perfectly. His ticks and mannerisms are on point, and supposedly much of his dialogue was ad-libbed. There’s also a running gag with his pet parrot named ‘Focus Group’, whom he consults every morning about what new charges he should bring against Trump.
Steve Carell as Devin Nunes
No surprise that Carell captures the incoherent fuming and dismissive finger-pointing of Rep. Nunes with uncanny accuracy. Reportedly, he listened to alt-right conspiracy channels for two months in preparation for the role.
Rango the Rottweiler as Jim Jordan
The real Jim Jordan requested that the rottweiler play him, and the director was happy to oblige. Jordan personally trained Rango to growl every time Schiff speaks, and bark whenever he hears the word ‘whistleblower’.
Matt Damon as Eric Swalwell
As expected, Damon does a fine job playing
Matt Damon Rep. Swalwell.
Rachel Bloom as Elise Stefanik
Bloom’s wide-eyed, agitated performance as the young congresswoman is a refreshing comic lifeline. Yet she also holds her own as a dramatic actress, showing a fire to Rep. Stefanik that transcends party lines (particularly in the scene where she breaks Rep. Turner’s neck after he holds the door open for her).
Ambassador Taylor as himself
Although Harrison Ford was slated for the role, he dropped out at the last minute. According to the director, he said, ‘I just don’t give a damn anymore, I hate movies as much as I hate politics’. Ford disputes this account – he claims he never even signed on for the movie, and that it’s all hearsay. In any case, the real ambassador was able to step in and save the production.
Kevin Kline as George Kent
The director’s decision to de-age Kevin Kline is baffling in itself, more so when you consider that his character literally just smiles and sits politely while Ambassador Taylor testifies. It seems like a shameless ploy to try and win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, but Kline is so delightful that nobody minds.
Annette Bening as Ambassador Yovanovitch
True to form, she will likely receive an Oscar nod for her complex, stirring performance. In fact, President Trump attacked Bening on Twitter for ‘reminding the American people how f***ing perfect the ambassador is’.
Terry Crews as The Call Transcript
Arguably the funniest cameo, Terry plays an everyday citizen who is randomly selected to be the ‘voice’ of the call transcript between Trump and Zelensky. Terry is brilliant as always, and turning the transcript into a witness was an ingenious twist.
Seth Rogen as Lieutenant Colonel Vindman
In what may be a career-defining turn, Rogen gives his most grounded performance to date, and brilliantly embodies Vindman’s relatable, every-man demeanor. One of the film’s most memorable exchanges is when he abruptly pulls out his M17 handgun, shoots it at Rep. Nunes (who barely dodges it), and proudly remarks that he was just trying to protect America.
Liam Neeson as Kurt Volker
While the two may not look exactly alike, the director saw many similarities between the men: a confident presence; a history of making bad choices with good intentions; and a sincere willingness to admit they were wrong. The decision paid off. Neeson was breathtakingly believable as Volker, and his painfully honest confession is one of the emotional high points of the movie.
Bruce Willis as Ambassador Sondland
Fun fact: Bruce has been a secret admirer of Gordon Sondland for many years. Once he heard about the movie, he locked the real ambassador in his basement and began impersonating him. That’s what politicians mean when they refer to ‘The Gordon Problem’.
Kristin Scott Thomas as Fiona Hill
In the final act, Kristin gives an inspired performance as the beleaguered British-born American advisor. On one side, Republicans are shouting and cussing out the Democrats, and don’t allow her to speak. On the other side, Democrats are applauding her for being a woman, and don’t allow her to speak. The scene is intercut with dramatic footage of Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the front lines. Finally, Hill shouts in desperation: ‘This is EXACTLY what Russia wants!!’. By far the most emotional moment.
Jennifer Williams, Tim Morrison, Laura Cooper, David Hale and David Holmes
The director made the controversial decision to exclude the above witnesses altogether. He didn’t want to ‘clutter things’, and insisted that ‘nobody will notice if they’re missing’. Although there was public backlash, none of the real-life officials were offended. On the contrary, they were genuinely relieved that their personal lives were no longer in the public spotlight.
Anthony Hopkins as Rudy Giuliani
No stranger to playing shady political figures, Hopkins is downright terrifying as Trump’s personal lawyer. Though he’s mentioned repeatedly in the hearings, he’s never seen being questioned (a fact that, in a rare bipartisan sentiment, both sides take issue with). We only see him in between each day of questioning, in a dimly lit underground chamber, as he uses sock puppets to explain his schemes to Trump.
Alec Baldwin as President Trump
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