The Final Year Review

This isn't a joke or anything, please please please come back. We need you.


Wow. This one is truly a doozy. This documentary tells the story of 4 key members of the Obama administration (Ben Rhodes, Susan Powers, John Kelley, and Susan Rice) as well as some insight from Obama himself from time to time. But to this film they aren't just members, they're people. Living, breathing, thinking people who have their own ideas and beliefs and lives outside of politics. That is truly where this film thrives, to just move politics aside all together this film humanizes people who are easy to make into targets or symbols that you can bolster or bemoan. This becomes especially evident towards the end of the film as the people in the administration begins to face some incredibly hard truths both at home and abroad. To see these people, especially Ben Rhodes and Susan Powers, have to face terrible truths and then work incredibly hard to resolve them is inspiring. Sometimes those truths cause these two to see different perspectives and want to seek different outcomes, yet they still try to find common ground and find an outcome that is best for the people (This almost seems like a distant dream at this point). To then go and see them live their normal lives and try and just be people with their families and live everyday lives makes what they do that much more impressive.

Not only is it impressive, it can be at times incredibly heartbreaking on many fronts. This film mainly focuses on foreign policy and how it operated under Obama's administration and when it gets to the topic of Syria and all the other terrible atrocities in the film it gets rough. Susan Powers spends much of this doc flying around the world and meeting with all sorts of people who have been affected by tragedy and cruelty created by people and to see the effects on the people and the politicians is an eye-opening experience that makes some of the film hard to watch. Watching the administration remain frustrated about Syria and the situation there is especially affecting. The heartbreak also comes towards the end of the doc as each member grapples with Trump's looming presidency and how all the work they've done in the past 8 years could be potentially unraveled before their very eyes. It's a devastating and emotional realization for the administration and the viewer and will remind you how there used to be some class in this part of the government.

The doc is not perfect however as it does suffer from structural and pacing issues throughout that caused me to lose focus on certain people and actions. I wish it felt more like the clock was ticking down rather than just a recounting of events. This oversight made the doc feel a bit unwieldy at times as it tried to find it's footing to distinguish some events from others as it rushed to cram a year of content into an hour and a half. This caused some people to get a lot less focus and screen time than others, specifically John Kelley and Susan Rice. Who served incredibly vital roles, but are relegated to minimal screentime in comparison to Rhodes and Powers. This film would very much benefit from an extra half an hour to an hour of content to make it feel like a truly cohesive and in-depth look at these people who worked so hard for so long.

While the film has problems it still has a latent power in its message and content that makes it easier to ignore some of its problems with execution. Like Obama's words that end the documentary, it will leave a bittersweet feeling within you. That we are losing an incredibly classy, hardworking, and intelligent president along with his talented and dedicated staff. But not to despair too much as we look past the turbulent and dark times ahead to when the pendulum inevitably swings back into the favor of the generation of incredibly motivated and caring people  that make the horizon at the end of these four years seem incredibly bright.

Al Pacino Rating: