George Wallace (1997)

Well-made miniseries about probably the most controversial figure in recent American history. This TV effort could easily have been very forgettable but for a couple of factors that elevate it to watchability at least for anyone interested in US politics. Firstly there’s an intense, career-best performance from Forrest Gump’s Gary Sinise as Wallace, and secondly the sure hand of a master in director John Frankenheimer – the OG political thriller maker from the sixties.

While there’s nothing spectacularly cinematic here from Frankenheimer and this is a ultimately a pedestrian TV-movie that plods along at a slow pace, his ability to build intensity and maintain a steady focus are noticeable. The longer running time also allows this movie to chart the Southern demagogue’s rise and uniquely long career as Alabama State Governor in a lot of detail. If you haven’t heard of Wallace before you will probably find more that is familiar to you in this story of racial tension in the sixties South than you thought.

Angelina Jolie makes an unexpected and somewhat incongruous appearance in the second half as the Southern belle trophy wife, and Clarence Williams III is excellent as the film’s moral center. Wallace certainly had an eventful life and the plot twists continue right up until the end.

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