Jason Reitman is a director who always commands your attention and as a filmmaker he is not afraid to stretch himself as an artist and try his hands at different genres and subject matter. With The Front Runner the director takes us back in time and charts the fall of one man’s dreams and documents just how savage and powerful modern media can be.
American Senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) is loved by all and is running for office in the 1988 presidential campaign, until it suddenly is derailed when it is revealed that he is caught up in a scandalous love affair.
In documenting the much-publicized rise and fall of Senator Gary Hart (Jackman), Reitman presents his audience with a fascinating story of kinetic politics in action and how a rapidly evolving country and technology changed the course of American history forever. Shot with a real matter of fact quality, The Front Runner plays out in a style that I can only describe as real-time as the groovy, handsome and charming Democratic nominee Gary Hart makes his bid for The White House before an all-together more interesting story takes hold. With The Front Runner, Reitman really puts Senator Hart and his sordid affair under the microscope and the film captures this pulse-pounding narrative which begins to move rapidly as Senator Hart’s campaign unravels.
Hugh Jackman really takes a step into left field here and I’d happen to say that Gary Hart is the most intense portrayal of any character that the actor has commanded. For Jackman, the emphasis is on a literal political minefield as his troubled personal life begins to leak out to the press and this upstanding political figure begins to be mercilessly cut down. With Jackman, we see the shining veneer fall away very quickly and the jackals quickly rise to the surface. While modern audiences are used to frayed politicians, you have to watch this in the context of the film’s 1988 setting as you come to terms with the fact that Jackman’s Hart is experiencing the first ever media storm and has no way to navigate it. The actor is definitely at his most vulnerable here and it becomes somewhat harrowing as we see him fall deeper into the abyss as he forgets that his personal life is now free for public consumption and he just doesn’t seem to fathom why it should be so.
While Jackman may be the focal point of The Front Runner, the other key character is the collective modern media and Reitman really focuses in on the presence of this unstoppable force. Relating back to the film’s time setting of 1988, we are slowly beginning to see the build-up of a collective 24-hour news cycle that never stops and it creates a beast that can never be satisfied. Seeking out the juiciest, meatiest stories of all, when Hart’s liaisons do rise to the surface the media jump upon it and it’s all out war on Hart and his lapsed morality. Reitman does a great job of linking together the idea of the media and the changing power structures in American society and the way he captures their collective presence really leads you to brace the edge of your seat on multiple occasions throughout the film.
Along with its rapid-fire narrative and examination of America’s collective power of a growing media nation, The Front Runner also examines the idea of morality and how it plays out in political life. While a politician’s policies and ideas related to how they want to govern should always be at the forefront of our minds, it very often does not come down to that and more often than not leads to a place where it’s how popular the candidate is and whether or not we actually like them and how ‘good’ of a person we feel them to be. That’s exactly where Jackman’s Hart finds himself in this movie and Reitman’s examination of this central theme is very interesting to watch as it unfolds before us.
The Front Runner is a clever and compelling politically-charged drama that races forward with a quick pace and captivating performance from its lead star. If you’re looking for a piece of cinema that will really challenge you on an intellectual level than you need to check this one out.
Image: Sony Pictures