Ricky Gervais’ first foray, into Netflix filmmaking is a remake of the 2009 French film ‘Envoyés Très Spéciaux’.
Radio anchorman, Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) is tasked with reporting on a rebel uprising in Quito, alongside radio technician Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais). On the way to the airport, the pair lose their passports and end up stuck in New York. They have two options. Own up and lose their jobs, or fake it. So, from the Spanish resturant opposite the radio station, they use Ian’s audio expertise to falsify the report. Unbeknownst to Ian, Frank slept with his wife. The day before she dumped him. As the lies grow bigger, the duo actually find themselves in Ecuador.
The film is meant to be a satire about mass media manipulation, but Gervais’ wimps out about half-way through. However, the biggest problem with special correspondents is the characters. None of them come across as real humans.
Gervais acts as writer/director, as well as co-star. But, he is woefully miscast as Ian. What we get is a clitche ridden caricature of a geek. He speaks about video games and comics. Given that it’s well-known that Gervais despises geek culture, it’s hard to take him seriously. Ben Whishaw or Rafe Spall would have been outsanding in this role.
Bana’s character is just bland. I think we’re meant to hate the guy, but also be impressed by him in a ‘loveable bastard’ type way. But he doesn’t do anything appalling enough to be hated or nice enough to endear him.
As bad as the other characters are, nobody has it worse than Vera Farmiga, as Ian’s wife, Eleanor. She’s a one-dimensional-fame hungry harpy, who takes to the talk show circuit to sell her “charity single”. She doesn’t have a single redeeming quality.
This is Gervais’ first feature without a co-director. With the invention of lying, he had Matthew Robinson. With Cemetery Junction, he had former creative partner, Stephen Merchant. Special Correspodents proves that Gervais isn’t a natural filmmaker, the film relies too heavily on musical montages, clitches and leaps in time to tell the story.