In such a crucial election year, it seems that every other week
there is another political movie released. Yet for all the biased
narratives available, there haven’t been any fictional ones
that take a look at the nexus of power, politics and money.

Film Reviews
Chris Cooper and staff contemplate a flat-tax proposal. (Courtesy of New Market)

Leave it to indie auteur John Sayles, who is no stranger to
political movies (“City Of Hope,”
“Matewan”) to probe these topics in an intelligent,
compelling (and made-up) narrative. Sayles’s latest film,
“Silver City,” is his most scathing yet, while
highlighting the skills he’s known for: great writing and
complex characters.

Focusing in on the fictitious 2004 Colorado gubernatorial
election, the film focuses its attention on candidate Richard
“Dickie” Pilager (Chris Cooper), who might as well be a
clone of President Bush. The son of a powerful Colorado senator
(Michael Murphy), Dickie comes across as likable, but has no idea
what he’s talking about once the TelePrompTer is turned
off.

At the filming of one of his TV spots, Dickie hooks a fishing
rod onto a corpse in a lake. Dickie’s driven campaign manager
(Richard Dreyfuss) hires private investigator Danny O’Brien
(Danny Huston) to look into the death.

Sayles seems to thrive on movies with messages, and
“Silver City” has plenty of them. The implications the
gifted writer-director make are not incredible revelations, but
they are bold insights into the role greed plays in government and
how even the most unqualified candidates can get into office when
the right people back them up.

Like his contemporary Robert Altman, Sayles is known for
intertwining stories between many characters. Even though much of
the narrative focuses on the mystery behind the dead body, Sayles
puts too many characters into play as well as several subplots
behind them.

Despite the plot becoming overstuffed, it is still engrossing.
Sayles layers the drama, politics and wit, with just the right
pinch of each. The film does end on a somewhat anti-climatic note
and some viewers may become frustrated that not every loose end is
tied up. The ensemble cast is excellent. Dreyfuss is intense as wry
campaign manager Chuck Raven, while Cooper is the perfect
Bush-doppelganger. The enigmatic actor is not doing a mere
imitation; he really nails the art of stuttering, ludicrous
sentences and odd physical movements.

“Silver City” is a rewarding and even brave film,
but due to its wandering and long-winded nature, it does not rank
as one of Sayles’s absolute best. Topped with a fabulous cast
and intricate script, this movie will be most appreciated by those
with an interest in politics, as well as those who enjoy stories
and characters that go against the norm.

 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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