Recount – DVD Review

Another election year and I once again find myself simultaneously glued to the television while veraciously reading newspapers and online news sites. Trying my hardest to keep up with everything pertaining to the hot button political issues our country will be forced to face over the next four years and beyond. While that’s all well and good, Recount really send the message home that it’s not the voting process that’s tricky, it’s the actual counting of ballots where things start to become, how shall we say, complicated.

A voting differential of 15,000 vote or less requires a mandatory, state-wide machine recount. If only it were that easy. In 2000, this seemingly simple and common practice only complicated matters further, resulting in Gore trailing Bush by a mere 327 votes. Which doesn’t include the roughly 1.5 million votes that many counties felt didn’t require being run through the machines a second time. Or how they uncovering that the state had turned away thousands of citizens from voting centers because their names were “similar” to those of convicted felons.

We all know the story’s conclusion, even in its most basic terms. People know how the 2000 election was heavily debated when a counting malfunction lead to Al Gore taking back his concession to George Bush. Inevitably turning Florida into a punching bag for news pundits and journalists ever since. The real story found within Recount is that of Ron Klain, acting as the David to the Republican party’s Goliath. Wanting nothing more than to know, without any doubt, who actually won the state of Florida, he fought tooth and nail to make sure every vote was counted.

It’s the juxtaposition throughout the film of how each party works towards bringing an end to the madness that’s most fascination. The logic by which each side uses to end things really captures the past eight years in American politics. While the democrats do their best to make sure things are done properly and by the books, republicans only care about wining. Still, the outset of all this is to win, and the conservative party managed to run down the clock with the ball on their side.

When retelling factual events, the most difficult hurdle a screenwriter needs to get over is the act of making the already known outcome work to the audience. Danny Strong weaves such a tight tale that it never becomes much of an issue for Recount. To make this happen, he takes the widely known and largely publicized recount process and tells it from the perspective of those the media relatively ignored — and there were none better than Ron’s rise from Gore’s former Chief of Staff to the General Counsel of Gore’s Recount Committee.

If there’s one good thing about Roach’s political feature, it’s that there’s never a moment where the film feels like it lingers. No scenes are extraneous, or excessively extemporaneous dialogue taking up valuable time — tight, concise and to the point. If there’s one issue that the film has against it, is disproving the old saying that “it would be funny if it weren’t true” (it manages to do so with flying colors). The length of research that went into this film can be felt in every single scene. Not a moment goes by where it feels like the movie is taking certain liberties or creative license to mold the true event to tell a juicier story. There were more than enough real life theatrics going on for Strong to fit into his screenplay without having to fudge the facts.

Now let’s hope the same problems don’t arise this November.

Presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio (and a 2.0 Spanish track), Recount’s picture and sound quality come through with expected clarity that tops even it’s very fine televised presentation. Black remain consistent, with a very sharp image with very little noise or edge enhancement. The audio track doesn’t have much to do, but the score is implemented through all of the speakers when it becomes appropriate.

A pair of conversational extras, A Conversation Between Kevin Spacey And The Real Ron Klain (7:18) and A Conversation Between Bob Balaban And The Real Ben Ginsberg (5:27), both are essentially the same thing, only focusing on the two opposing perspectives. Each one features the real life politician and the actor that portrayed them in the film, discussing the events from 2000 and how the movie approached them. Both are worth a watch, but not much substance is to be found in either.

Also on the DVD is The True Inside Story Of The 2000 Presidential Election (8:36), which is just a really long way of saying “Making Of Featurette”. Maybe the DVD Producer was being paid by the letter. It plays like the typical bumper you might find between movies on HBO; an overabundant amount of footage from the movie intercut between interviews of cast members discussing the real life events, how the writer approached the material, and what director Jay Roach’s mind set was while filming. Oh, and Jeffrey Toobin.

Picking up for the slack, a feature length Audio Commentary is included with Jay Roach and Danny Strong. The discussion between the two is lively and they both clearly have more to talk about than time allows, as they hardly ever pause the commentary throughout the film. It almost plays out as a post-game breakdown, dissecting where each side did something wrong, and how it affected the ensuing course of events. What’s most interesting while listening is the massive amount of information Strong had to leave out of the final film in order for the running time to be at a manageable length.

Recount has all the makings of a good movie. A plot that will go down in the history books of political science, characters that leap off the screen with a larger than life feeling, a sense of redemption, and the always classic David and Goliath type battle. As would be expected with names like Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Ed Bagley Jr. and Laura Dern, the performances are absolutely phenomenal. Each actor brings these characters to life on screen. As it stands, this still remains one of the best films of 2008.


HBO Films presents Recount. Directed by Jay Roach. Starring Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Ed Bagley Jr., Dennis Leary, Laura Dern. Written by Danny Strong. Running time: 116 minutes. Rated TV-MA. Released on DVD: August 19, 2007. Available at Amazon.

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