Review by Dan Skip Allen
Political thrillers involving newspaper reporters can be a bit hit-and-miss. The Ides of March, Spotlight, and All the President's Men got these genres right. They got to the bottom of the subject they were trying to investigate or focus on regarding elections and or corruption/illegal activity. The Independent hopes to capture some of these ideas, and surprisingly, it largely succeeds.
Elisia "Eli" James (Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim) is a young novice journalist for the Washington Chronicle, a fictional newspaper. She and an idol of hers, a grizzled columnist, Nick Booker (Brian Cox), help each other uncover a far-reaching conspiracy that may have a massive impact on the recent presidential election involving the incumbent President — a Republican — his Democratic opposition (Ann Dowd, Mass), and an independent candidate, Nate Sterling (John Cena, The Suicide Squad), a good-looking man of the people.
As far as political thrillers go, this one isn't bad. Director Amy Rice and first-time scriptwriter Evan Parter keep the twists and turns coming throughout the film. The suspense and intrigue are very good in the script. The characters played by the entire cast are all pretty good, even John Cena, who's not usually in these kinds of films but holds his own amongst some heavy hitters like Cox, Turner-Smith, and Dowd.
In this day and age, politicians will try anything if it means they have an edge in an election. The plot in this political thriller isn't as far-fetched as it would seem. One of the characters uses a small business to funnel money into a super PAC, which happens in real life. Having one of the main candidates as an ex-olympian is also an intriguing idea on the part of the filmmakers. We've had plenty of athletes run for office and win elections in the past, including — right now — Herschel Walker, who played football for the Georgia Bulldogs in college and the Vikings and Cowboys in the NFL.
This movie is coming out at the right time for US audiences. With the thick of election season happening as we speak, this is the perfect time to put out a political thriller such as this one. The story by Parter and the direction by Rice are good. The acting by Emmy Award winners Cox and Dowd is exceptional, but Turner-Smith is the real star here. And Cena surprises to no end as this charismatic political contender who hopes to change the White House as an independent candidate. The Independent was a pleasant surprise.
The Independent streams on Peacock beginning November 2.