Special Correspondents full movie review - Special Correspondents: A Hard-Hitting Look at Hack Journalism
Excerpt from Cinematic Codes Review:
Special Correspondents is a low-budget Netflix comedy that stars a series of well-known middle-aged stars. It is refreshing to view an anti-journalism film for a change, as the dramas about the heroic journalists nearly dying but surviving against all odds through their strength of character are predictably dull. The film starts when a radio announcer, played by Eric Bana, and his female assistant, Kelly Macdonald, break into a crime scene by pretending to be detectives, and in two minutes concoct how the announcer images the Russian without a finger got shot in a gang war based on silverware and a couple of sentences by the bellman.
Fig. 1. Eric Bana, middle, and Kelly Macdonald, right, in Special Correspondents. Netflix.
Things go awry when the technician, Ricky Gervais, tosses his own and the announcer's passports and tickets into a dump truck, just as they are supposed to fly for an assignment in a war zone in South America. They hide out in an apartment above a diner across the street from their radio station instead, and use automated sound effects to convince listeners that they are reporting from the front lines. They make up a false general and spin the lie so far that they have to pretend they've been kidnapped. To support this lie, they smuggle themselves into the country illegally, and actually manage to get kidnapped.
Fig. 2. Eric Bana, middle left, and Ricky Gervais, middle right, in Special Correspondents. Netflix.
Most of the cast acts as if they are intoxicated during shooting, and this stands out the most in Vera Farmiga's performance. She does sip alcohol a few times, as part of the plot, but her lack of enthusiasm for the story and for what she's saying shows through. She is supposed to be the detached, mean and self-interested wife of the technician, but her apathy is painful to watch. Comedies typically exaggerate this sort of characters to a greater extent to avoid it slipping into a dark tragedy.
Fig. 3. Ricky Gervais, left, and Eric Bana in Special Correspondents. Netflix.
The running scene where Ricky Gervais shoots out the kidnappers really shows why comedians should not attempt inserting extreme action into their low-budget (i.e. no stunt-doubles) films. Imagine Xena without doubles, if Lucy Lawless gained a hundred pounds and was wearing baggy casual clothing, while she's trying to run and toss spears in the general direction of her numerous assailants? The settings look expensive though. In one scene, the leads are making their way through deep water towards the shore as a large trade ship is departing behind them. The jungle village they end up in in South America looks like an authentic village in the rain forest, so it must have cost a good deal to get a crew in there. The shots inside of an expensive hotel lobby and inside of a radio station probably were costly too. Ricky Gervais did a good job pulling this whole thing together considering that he acted, directed and wrote it. He could have chosen a more formulaic comedy that did not require a trip into the jungle, or casting doubts on the follies of American journalists, so his daring is commendable. At no point of this film did I consider stopping it and not watching it through the end, and there were a few moments when I might have giggled silently. So, if you have Netflix, yeah, you should definitely watch this comedy, if only to laugh at the mistakes.