Paolo Sorrentino has directed a sophisticated, complex, gripping film from a very unlikely material, a study of the Giulio Andreotti, seven time Italian Premier, in the early 1990's when Italy was rocked by Mafia trials and the exposure of extensive political and civil corruption. The film focuses on the final period of Andreotti's political life as allegations of corruption and alliances with the Mafia were laid against him. The kidnap and murder by the Red Brigade of former premier Aldo Moro is a significant thread in the film. The focus of the film is Giulio Andreotti himself, while the context of political violence is shown, the weight of the film is a extensive character study of a bureaucrat who actions were secretive and intentionally low key.
The film is anchored by a subtle, perfectly timed performance by Toni Servillo as Andreotti, his hunch backed gait, slightly reptilian looks and closed demeanour are invested with a burning, secretive life. It is never entirely clear what Andreotti is thinking, he used his lack of responsiveness and closed attitude as a weapon to manage others, they rushed to fill the void he left open and then they were within his power. The supporting cast are all excellent, in particular the two most significant women in Andreotti's life, Anna Bonaiuto as Livia his wife and Piera Degli Esposti as Mrs. Enea his secretary. These women reveal more about Andreotti than he ever does himself.
The film is marvelously constructed, the mobile camerawork and the subtle lighting are as much characters as the human cast. The cinematic techniques are delivered with a flourish, they are not held back, they create the style of the film clearly and flamboyantly. This adds hugely to the pleasure of the film, it has been constructed with such a forceful intelligence that the the whole is deeply satisfying cinematic experience. It is impossible to imagine this as anything other than a film, simply glorious.