Blu-ray review: “The Contender” (2000)

“The Contender” (2000)


Running Time: 126 minutes

Written and Directed by: Rod Lurie

Featuring: Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges, Christian Slater, William Petersen, Philip Baker Hall, Saul Rubinek and Sam Elliott

Laine Hanson: “Principles only mean something when you stick to them when its inconvenient.”

Critical Commentary

“The Contender” is a political drama film directed by Rod Lurie and released in 2000. The movie stars Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges, Gary Oldman, and Christian Slater, among others. The film is set in the political world of Washington D.C. and follows the story of a female senator named Laine Hanson, who is nominated by the president to become the vice president of the United States.

The movie explores themes of gender, power, ethics, and politics, as Laine Hanson faces a difficult confirmation hearing where she must confront allegations about her past sexual behaviour. The film raises important questions about the treatment of women in politics, as well as the role of integrity and moral character in public office.

Joan Allen delivers a powerful performance as Laine Hanson, capturing the character’s strength, vulnerability, and determination. Jeff Bridges is also excellent as the president, who must navigate the complex political landscape and make difficult decisions. Gary Oldman plays the role of the opposition, Senator Shelly Runyon, with great intensity, while Christian Slater provides strong support as a young political strategist.

“The Contender” is a well-acted and thought-provoking film that offers a nuanced exploration of the political process and the role of gender in politics. The film is well-directed, with a strong script and excellent performances from the cast. It is a must-see for anyone interested in politics or social issues.

“The Contender” is also notable for its exploration of the personal lives of politicians and how their pasts can be used against them in a political setting. The film shows how past behavior, particularly sexual behaviour, can be used as a weapon in a political campaign and how this can be particularly damaging for women. The film’s examination of the gendered nature of politics is particularly relevant today, with women still facing significant obstacles and bias when running for office. The film highlights the double standard that exists in the treatment of male and female politicians and how women are often held to a higher moral standard than men.

At the same time, the film also raises important questions about the importance of moral character and integrity in politics. Laine Hanson is portrayed as a principled and ethical politician, but her past actions raise questions about her fitness for office. The film asks whether personal behaviour should be taken into account when considering a person’s suitability for high office.

“The Contender” is a well-crafted film that succeeds in exploring complex issues in a nuanced and thought-provoking way. The film’s exploration of gender and politics, ethics and integrity, and the personal lives of politicians is still relevant today and makes it a valuable contribution to the political film genre. Overall, it is a movie worth watching for anyone interested in politics, ethics, and social justice.

In addition to its exploration of politics and gender, The Contender is also a well-crafted and engaging thriller. The film’s screenplay is tightly written, with sharp dialogue and well-drawn characters that keep the audience engaged from beginning to end. The film’s central conflict is a political battle between Laine Hanson and Senator Shelly Runyon, played with great intensity by Gary Oldman. The tension between the two characters is palpable, and their verbal sparring is a highlight of the film. The film’s climax is also well-executed, with a satisfying resolution to the central conflict.

“The Contender” is also notable for its use of flashbacks, which provide important context for the events of the film. The flashbacks are well-integrated into the narrative and help to deepen the audience’s understanding of the characters and their motivations. “The Contender” is a well-crafted and thought-provoking film that succeeds both as a political drama and a thriller. Its exploration of gender and politics, ethics and integrity, and the personal lives of politicians is still relevant today and makes it a valuable contribution to the political film genre.

Furthermore, “The Contender” is a film that showcases the power of excellent performances from its cast. Joan Allen’s portrayal of Laine Hanson is a standout performance that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards. She is convincing as a woman who is not only an intelligent and capable politician but also vulnerable and sympathetic, struggling to balance her past mistakes with her desire to serve the country.

Jeff Bridges, who plays the President, is also excellent in his role. He portrays a leader who is often torn between his personal feelings and his duty to his office. Gary Oldman’s performance as Senator Shelly Runyon is chilling and convincing, as he embodies the dark side of politics and the lengths that some politicians will go to achieve their goals. In addition, the supporting cast of The Contender also provides strong performances, particularly Christian Slater as the young political strategist who aids Laine Hanson’s campaign.

“The Contender” is a film that combines excellent performances, a well-crafted screenplay, and a thought-provoking exploration of important social and political issues. It is a film that engages and challenges its audience while also providing a satisfying and well-executed thriller.

Technical Commentary


The Contender features a beautiful anamorphic transfer from source material that appears to be near reference quality. The images are rich and smooth with fantastic colors, deep blacks and exemplary shadow detail. Some of the location shots (probably stock footage) show a little grain but the picture is mainly crisp and satisfying to look at. The only flaw is a few instances of over sharpening that causes vertical and horizontal lines to boil from time to time. This effect is limited though and never distracts from an otherwise spot on transfer.


Imprint use a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track (16-bit) in the original English language. The Contender is a fairly passive film audio-wise, and there aren’t many distinguishing separations here. It’s clean and consistent with music credited to Larry Groupé (who has composed most for shorts, documentaries and some TV work), sounding subtle in supporting the film. 

Special Features

• Audio commentary with writer/director Rod Lurie and actress Joan Allen
• Deleted scenes (with optional audio commentary by writer/director Rod Lurie) (15:58)
• The Making of a Political Thriller – behind-the-scenes featurette (21:51)
• Interview with actress Joan Allen (12:46)


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