STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Obama team bids wistful farewell in 'The Final Year'

Designed to make President Obama's supporters wistful and seemingly to irritate President Trump, "The Final Year" is ...

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 7:57 AM
Updated: Jan 18, 2018 7:57 AM

Designed to make President Obama's supporters wistful and seemingly to irritate President Trump, "The Final Year" is an intriguing if overtly nostalgic fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the last year of the former's presidency, chronicled through the perspective of his national-security team.

Theatrically releasing this HBO-bound documentary almost a year to the day of Trump's inauguration, obviously, isn't an accident, any more than the throwback credits, which introduce the key players in big bold letters as "starring" in the documentary, as if this were a 1970s drama.

Director Greg Barker's feature-length film is nevertheless an illuminating if somewhat soft-focused look at the brinkmanship and delicacy associated with international relations, one that clearly contrasts the diplomatic efforts of these wonk-ish Obama insiders -- principally former Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and deputy adviser Ben Rhodes -- with the Trump administration's proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop approach.

The project also highlights the personal toll that such positions exact, from the travel to the time away from family, with Power and Rhodes shown in quieter moments with their young children when they're not crisscrossing the globe.

"We're all just passing through these jobs," Power says, although the principals interviewed talk about consciously making decisions that they hope will be "hard to dismantle," keeping a watchful eye -- while the film's being shot -- on the presidential race unfolding as a backdrop to their endeavors.

What the future might hold is an underlying focus of the film, yet merely one aspect of a broader message -- namely, how even for those operating the levels of power, events often spin off beyond their control.

For those who share their liberal views, Barker's backstage access to their election-night reactions is clearly the sobering heart of the film. Rhodes, for example, having dismissed the prospect of a Trump victory, is struck speechless. Power looks crestfallen over what the outcome might mean -- both for the country, and the relationships and policies that they have painstakingly cultivated.

Obama, too, is a presence here, although a limited and peripheral one, dropping in and out of the meetings shown, and talking calmly about the country's resilience, whatever setbacks his party and agenda might experience.

What comes across is how Obama's attempt to bring nuance to U.S. diplomacy sometimes struggled within the current media landscape, with Rhodes, for one, chafing at being pressed to make statements that can subsequently be funneled into pro-con debates on cable news. In that context, he also addresses a New York Times profile in which he derided reporters' knowledge of such matters, statements that forced him into damage-control mode.

"The pendulum will swing back," Rhodes says, almost sounding as if he's trying to reassure himself. But it's hard to escape a lingering sense of pessimism that permeates "The Final Year," especially when comparing Obama's final U.N. speech with the chaotic, dizzying nature of 2017.

For its target audience, "The Final Year" can't help but have a melancholy feel, any more than it can be separated from the prism of politics. But it's worth seeing, if only to gain greater appreciation for the nature of these jobs and their highs and lows -- even for occupants who are, as Power says, just passing through.

"The Final Year" premieres Jan. 19 in selected theaters.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 91935

Reported Deaths: 2780
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6903153
DeSoto532153
Harrison368771
Jackson334367
Madison318086
Rankin313473
Lee254066
Jones236078
Forrest231069
Washington215671
Lafayette203039
Lauderdale1984123
Bolivar177465
Oktibbeha173749
Lamar156633
Neshoba1524103
Panola140926
Sunflower138543
Lowndes138457
Warren136650
Leflore134380
Pontotoc120416
Pike120148
Monroe117665
Scott115925
Copiah115433
Coahoma110927
Holmes108458
Marshall106714
Grenada104535
Lincoln104453
Yazoo103429
Simpson100142
Union96524
Tate94537
Leake93535
Adams89135
Wayne87121
Pearl River84850
Marion83633
Covington79321
Prentiss78617
Alcorn75310
Newton74722
Itawamba74121
George73913
Tallahatchie73418
Winston71919
Tishomingo65035
Attala63625
Chickasaw63524
Tippah63516
Walthall58925
Clay56216
Hancock55420
Noxubee54015
Jasper53615
Clarke52538
Smith51714
Calhoun50612
Tunica47213
Montgomery45020
Claiborne44916
Lawrence42212
Yalobusha41314
Perry39016
Humphreys36915
Quitman3625
Stone34611
Greene33516
Webster32813
Jefferson Davis32211
Carroll30812
Amite30710
Wilkinson30117
Kemper28515
Sharkey25812
Jefferson2359
Benton2151
Franklin1863
Choctaw1775
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128818

Reported Deaths: 2284
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18648332
Mobile12949288
Montgomery8560170
Madison736573
Tuscaloosa7015112
Lee558259
Shelby550149
Baldwin502148
Marshall376342
Etowah326344
Calhoun321139
Morgan312925
Houston260621
Elmore247547
DeKalb230119
St. Clair218134
Walker217780
Talladega199925
Limestone191919
Cullman180017
Franklin172728
Dallas172526
Russell16912
Autauga162424
Lauderdale159231
Colbert157224
Escambia154324
Blount150413
Jackson146610
Chilton143325
Dale128042
Covington127027
Coffee12388
Pike11329
Tallapoosa112483
Chambers110642
Clarke104417
Marion91428
Butler90238
Barbour8097
Marengo69319
Winston68512
Lowndes64327
Pickens62214
Bibb6179
Hale60828
Bullock58514
Randolph58512
Lawrence57620
Monroe5708
Washington54513
Geneva5404
Perry5356
Wilcox52911
Cherokee52816
Clay5187
Conecuh51611
Crenshaw51531
Macon46619
Henry4524
Sumter41719
Fayette4128
Choctaw34212
Lamar3302
Cleburne3116
Greene29915
Coosa1573
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 80°
Columbus
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 82°
Oxford
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 80°
Starkville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 80°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather