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Thank You For Smoking - Review

Aaron Eckhart in Thank You For Smoking

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Thirteen Deleted Scenes With Optional Audio Commentaries; Unfiltered Comedy: The Making Of Thank You For Smoking – Featurette; America: Living in Spin – Featurette; Theatrical Trailer; Three Stills Galleries.

DON’T let the title blow smoke in your eyes, this is not a shamefully biased ode to the tobacco industry but rather a sharp look at the power of spin.

Based on Christopher Buckley’s acclaimed 1994 novel of the same name, Thank You For Smoking follows the fortunes of Aaron Eckhart’s Nick Naylor, the chief spokesman for cigarette-industry giant Big Tobacco.

With his firm belief in the power of debate (“you’re never wrong if you argue correctly”), Naylor can frequently win over the most unsympathetic audience by twisting anything and everything to his advantage.

Hence, when Nick decides to enlist a Hollywood super-agent (Rob Lowe) to promote smoking a little more in movies, his skills attract the attention of a tobacco head honcho (Robert Duvall).

But they also threaten to antagonise a crusading US senator (William H Macy) who launches a campaign to have every fag packet labelled ‘poison’, and an unscrupulous journalist (Katie Holmes) who determines to expose some dirt on him.

Can Nick keep the wolves at bay while also remaining a good role model to his increasingly impressionable son (Cameron Bright)?

Directed by Jason Reitman, Thank You For Smoking proves a frequently amusing affair that raises some very pertinent questions about the nature of spin doctoring.

It lines up numerous targets and mostly succeeds in hitting them all, whether it be tobacco, Hollywood, the media, or the gun and alcohol industries.

If there is a criticism, it’s that by casting its net so wide the film occasionally becomes a little confused and uneven, thereby wasting some of the potential posed by its terrific cast.

Rob Lowe’s hilarious talent agent deserves more screen-time, for instance, as does Maria Bello’s alcohol representative. But both are inhibited by the film’s tight running time.

That said, Eckhart provides a terrifically amoral leading man who manages to combine sheer arrogance with an ability to make Nick appear somehow sympathetic (especially when being placed on the back foot).

His razor-sharp banter with each of his adversaries is consistently amusing and contrasts nicely with some of his more intimate moments with his son or love interest.

Refreshing, too, is the film’s refusal to sell out and provide a Hollywood ending, opting instead to keep things as amoral as they started so as to reflect the true state of the world.

It is a considerable achievement and one that ultimately helps to stub out any doubts you may have about any of its earlier failings.

Watch the trailer and an exclusive clip

Certificate: 15
Running time: 92 minutes