U.S. President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) is making his choice for a replacement Vice President. According to the people of the U.S and staff in The Whitehouse, the obvious choice is Jack Hathaway (William Peterson). Hathaway has an impressive record and a past that creates confidence that he could be an outstanding leader. However, the President makes a choice unlike what the world is expecting.
The President appoints Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen), the first woman in history to work in the President’s office. However, while Laine is surprised and honoured by the President’s selection, there are people within The Whitehouse who are disgusted and unimpressed by the decision, including Congressman Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman). Shelly and others are determined to find a reason why Laine is the wrong person for the job, and it’s not long until they find some information. The question is, can Laine prove herself and stand strong regardless of past wrongs?
The Contender is best described as a political drama with thriller-like moments (especially when certain reveals are made within the third act). The film also asks the audience many great questions, including whether a leader can still be a great leader if they have made poor choices in the past. It’s a fun concept which had my interest and engagement for the full duration. I found myself surprised with multiple turns along the way. There is no action here, but I love the concept of how one’s past and people’s voices can be highly damaging to another. Here it is so easy to witness Shelly and others point the finger as Laine defends herself and continues on each day regardless of the accusations that have been made about her.
Performances here are stunning, with highlights including Jeff Bridges as the quirky President who seems fairly direct, laidback on occasion and takes pleasure in consistently ordering food. But jokes aside, the President’s character is highly supportive and tackles matters head-on, and I felt the actor does a wonderful job right from his first introduction. Gary Oldman was highly fitting for the role of the antagonist, Shelly, a determined, sneaky, devilish character. Actor Sam Elliot was highly entertaining in his supporting role as he engaged in various conflicts with the leads. Most importantly, Joan Allen was impressive for the most part as the lead. Pacing here is great, and considering I’m not normally one for political dramas, I found this one quite fascinating and was eager to know the film’s final results. The ending is filled with many surprises, only heightening my enjoyment.
Overall, considering I’m not normally one for political dramas, this one had my engagement early on, and I found myself highly entertained by the story and concept. It’s a powerful film that asks whether a leader can still be reliable and perform their duty accurately even if they carry a dark and mysterious past. Performances here are highly pleasing, with actors including Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman as the major standouts. Pacing is a delight, and elements that include a few surprising twists and turns only further heightened my enjoyment. This is certainly a film to add to your watchlist if you’re unfamiliar with it.