Stephen Arnell

Feuds on film: cinema’s best on-screen clashes

  • From Spectator Life
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With the recent rumours of increasing tension between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, a look at feuding, fall outs and rivalries in the movies.

Infighting between Prime Ministers and Chancellors has a storied history, harking back to the earliest days of the Parliamentary system in the UK.

We’ve had spats between Harold Wilson and Roy Jenkins, Mrs Thatcher and Howe/Lawson, May vs Hammond and of course the long-running Blair/Brown psychodrama.

The reported comity between Cameron/Osborne and Callaghan/Healey appears to be a relatively rare occurrence when it comes to the two most important offices of state in the British government.

As far as cinema goes, feuding between former allies/friends is an established trope, running from Biblical dramas (Noah, Exodus: Gods & Kings etc), Sword & Sandal epics (Ben Hur, Spartacus, Cleopatra), Tudor England (A Man for All Seasons, Elizabeth), the English Civil War (Cromwell, To Kill a King) and the Napoleonic era (The Duellists) to the present day (The Deal, Brexit: The Uncivil War).

Crime families are traditionally prone to rivalries and treachery, hence runt-of-the-litter Fredo Corleone’s resentment at being side-lined by his young brother Michael and subsequent betrayal in Godfather II (1974); also, Tessio’s pragmatic ‘tell Mike it was only business’ decision to switch allegiance from La Famiglia in the first movie (1972).

The future appears to be little different, if the backstabbing companies and families in films such as the Alien series, Dune (1984, remake released later this year) and Jupiter Ascending (2015) are to be believed.

W. (2008) Amazon Rent/Buy

After 1995’s Nixon, Oliver Stone takes on another Republican president with this satirical portrait of number 43, George W. Bush. Played by Josh Brolin as a slow-witted dry drunk and Born-Again Christian, it’s safe to say the director takes a pretty dim view of his approach to high office.

The picture follows W’s struggles with booze, Christianity, his father (#41) and decision to pursue a political career when he effectively elbows aside younger brother Jeb (‘the smart one’) to become the next Bush president. 

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