Political satires, even vaguely, tangentially political satires, haven’t had a great track record as of late. Last September, the Sandra Bullock-led Our Brand Is Crisis was poised to be a major hit and serious Oscar contender for its leading actress, but by its release in November, it had been critically shunned and put up the lowest box-office receipts of Bullock’s career. More recently, Tina Fey starred in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which was billed as a satirical look at a reporter’s life in Afghanistan, but ended up as something closer to a war zone-set Eat Pray Love. American audiences are long overdue for a nice, toothy satire to expose the hypocrisies of modern life’s broken institutions. Who will step up to be the defender of decency and take the goons of the world to task?
Why, who but Ricky Gervais! The new Netflix original film Special Correspondents places the polarizing comedian on triple duty as director, writer, and star, and he’s got plenty to say about American politics and the declining state of journalism. An adaptation of a 2009 French film of the same name, the movie due April 29 features Gervais and Eric Bana as a pair of down-on-their-luck reporters assigned to an extended embed in fictitiously war-torn Ecuador. The trouble is that Gervais’ character threw their allowance of money and airplane tickets in the garbage for what would have to be a good reason, and so the pair is faced with a choice: either sheepishly return to their editor and confess to their own incompetence, or phone in elaborate hoax-reports with DIY sound effects replicating the conditions of the Ecuadorian environment. Guess which path they decide to take? It works out well enough, until mounting demands for video footage force the pair to hire a pair of fake terrorists to fake-kidnap them. Things, as they often do when fake-terrorists enter the mix, then get worse.
Judging from the trailer above, it looks like a pretty good time, and the solid supporting cast only sweetens the deal. Vera Farmiga warbles out a tune as Gervais’ wife hoping to spin this “tragedy” into a successful singing career, America Ferrera steps in as Gervais and Bana’s local liaison, and Kelly Macdonald reappears in her first post-Boardwalk Empire role. Gervais already scored a pair of Emmy nominations for Netflix with his miniseries Derek; they’re banking that he’ll be able to pull a similar feat this time around.