×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘The Diplomat’

With:
With: Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Henry Kissinger, David Petraeus, Samantha Power

In the opening moments, “The Diplomat” feels like it might be another one of those documentaries more about the filmmaker than the subject, especially with David Holbrooke – the eldest son of the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke – talking in voiceover about the prospect of getting to know his dad “better in death than I did in life.” Stick with it, though, and this slightly overlong film, getting a showcase on HBO, provides a fascinating plunge into the balancing act of diplomacy, featuring top-tier interviews and an in-depth look at the brinkmanship surrounding the international negotiations that defined Richard’s globetrotting career.

The elder Holbrooke died suddenly of a heart attack in 2010. Having begun his international exploits as one of the Best and Brightest in Vietnam, he later cobbled together a grudging peace in Bosnia during the Clinton administration, which may have been his signature achievement. Ambassadorships and international assignments followed, including for the Obama administration, but Holbrooke’s thinly veiled desire to be Secretary of State was never realized, in part because Al Gore didn’t become president.

Through interviews with seemingly every high-powered figure who crossed Holbrooke’s path – including Gore and Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the latter saying Holbrooke “had his own energy field” – the son paints a thorough picture of his father.

What really stands out, though, are the interviews with those who sat across the negotiating table from Holbrooke, such as Bosnian president Bakir Izetbegovic. That’s augmented by Holbrooke’s diary entries and audio recordings from the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, to whom Holbrooke was a source, providing eerie insight from the great beyond into his line of thinking and clashes with the Obama administration shortly before he died, citing concerns about a “resource/mission mismatch” in Afghanistan.

In terms of the civil war in the Balkans, “The Diplomat” provides a detailed tick-tock of the negotiations, shedding considerable light on the delicate nature of diplomacy – which, as some of Holbrooke’s associates note, is seemingly frowned upon today in modern conservative political circles as a sign of weakness, with being inflexible and tough trumping (or perhaps, Trump-ing) all. Tellingly, the airing is timed to the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, which brought an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Obviously, there’s something intensely personal about Holbrooke’s son writing, directing and narrating the film, but in some respects, the biographical elements are its weakest sections. The elder Holbrooke was someone who traveled in elite political and media circles (Diane Sawyer, with whom he was romantically involved), and as is noted time and again, thrived on the international stage.

In that respect, sometimes getting to know the private man isn’t always as interesting as the public one. Fortunately, Richard Holbrooke left a detailed record of what feels like more than one lifetime’s worth of events and accomplishments.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'The Diplomat'

(Documentary; HBO, Mon. Nov. 2, 8 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Giraffe Partners and Stacey Reiss Prods.

Crew: Executive producers, Scott Berrie, Tom Freston, Barbara, Andrew Gundlach, Marshall Sonenshine, Louis Venezia, Sheila Nevins; senior producer, Nancy Abraham; producer, Stacey Reiss; writer-director, David Holbrooke; editor, Seth Bomse; music, Graham Reynolds. 104 MIN.

Cast: With: Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Henry Kissinger, David Petraeus, Samantha Power

More TV

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Sued for Sexual Harassment by Longtime Makeup Artist

    A makeup artist who worked for Charlie Rose for 22 years has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, accusing the former CBS and PBS host of years of unlawful behavior toward female employees. Gina Riggi alleges that Rose was verbally abusive with her and would often make derogatory comments about her weight. She also alleges that [...]

  • Actress Catherine Oxenberg, left, with Stanley

    Catherine Oxenberg on Dramatizing Her Life Story for 'Escaping the NXIVM Cult'

    For seven years, Catherine Oxenberg says, individuals within the NXIVM organization groomed her daughter India and made her believe in their group as one of empowerment, despite many of their practices being abusive towards women. Now, those years have been condensed into a 90-minute dramatization of Oxenberg’s story for Lifetime, entitled “Escaping the NXIVM Cult: [...]

  • Suzanne Whang Obit

    'House Hunters' Star Suzanne Whang Dies at 56

    Suzanne Whang, best known for her nine-year hosting and narrating stint on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” died Tuesday after a 13-year battle with breast cancer. She was 56. Whang’s partner Jeff Vezain shared the news on Facebook Thursday, writing that “she confronted cancer with courage, humor, determination and optimism.” “She was immensely encouraged by the love [...]

  • Ronen Rubinstein, Sierra McClain Join ‘9-1-1:

    Ronen Rubinstein, Sierra McClain Join ‘9-1-1’ Spinoff at Fox

    Fox’s “9-1-1” spinoff has added two more series regulars to its cast. Ronen Rubinstein and Sierra McClain have joined previously announced cast members Rob Lowe, Liv Tyler and Jim Parrack, Variety has learned. The new entry to the budding “9-1-1” franchise follows a sophisticated New York fireman (Lowe) who, along with his son, re-locates to Austin, [...]

  • Mr Robot BTS

    How 'Mr. Robot' Launched Its Creator and Star to New Heights

    “Mr. Robot” may be synonymous with helping USA redefine its long-touted “blue-skies” strategy into its current “we the bold” motto, but the series was also career-defining for those involved — particularly creator Sam Esmail and actor Rami Malek. Malek’s resume included a few key credits including HBO’s “The Pacific” and “Short Term 12” before taking [...]

  • AMERICAN IDOL - "119 (Grand Finale)"

    Ryan Seacrest to Return for 'American Idol' Season 3 on ABC

    Ryan Seacrest will return as the host of “American Idol” for the music competition’s third season on ABC. Seacrest will also continue hosting and executive producing “On Air with Ryan Seacrest,” his nationally syndicated L.A. morning drive-time radio show. He also serves as co-host and executive producer on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” as [...]

  • Julian Fellowes

    'Downton Abbey' Creator Julian Fellowes on His Early Start as an Actor

    Julian Fellowes was all wrong for his time — at first. When he graduated from drama school in 1973, working-class dramas onstage were all the rage, and the aspiring actor struggled to get an agent. He eventually snagged a supporting role in “A Touch of Spring,” a West End comedy that required him to fall down a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content