THE COMEY RULE – Review by Diane Carson

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The Comey Rule adds insights into personal conflict

Deciding to adapt former FBI director James Comey’s 2018 memoir A Higher Loyalty for Showtime’s series The Comey Rule, writer/director Billy Ray faced a daunting task. He needed to present extensively reported well-known recent events accurately and dramatically, while also adding insightful information. Ray meets this challenge by finding the heart of the story not in added details but in the conflict of an ethical individual handling political dynamite.

Those who follow politics certainly remember the White House dinner between only President Trump and then FBI director Comey at which President Trump insisted on Comey’s complete loyalty. There was also the reception at which Trump signaled Comey, who tried in vain to blend into the drapes, to come across the room for a hand clasp pulled into shoulder to shoulder contact. Add to that the two FBI investigations into Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s personal emails, possibly containing confidential information. The second of those destabilized Clinton’s campaign and posed a profound ethical dilemma for Comey. And there was Comey in L.A. learning of his firing via CNN news while addressing FBI agents.

The two-part Showtime series vividly reminds us of all that, interjecting a fair amount of news coverage. What The Comey Rule adds is a wealth of carefully sourced discussions among Comey’s FBI team and his home life of a wife and two daughters. This reveals a fuller, personal context for the events, though clearly from Comey’s perspective.

As Comey, Jeff Daniels presents a composed, thoughtful demeanor. His aides have a variety of personalities that adds interest to their interactions and discoveries. Perhaps most chilling is the information before closing credits that summarizes their dismissals and resignations, a heavy toll of competent civil servants. As President Trump, Brendan Gleeson conveys a latent sinister attitude, albeit a bit exaggerated. Contributing are Holly Hunter as Sally Yates, Kingsley Ben-Adir as President Obama (stretching a bit for his inflections), the always reliable Michael Kelly as Andrew McCabe, and Scoot McNairy as a befuddled Rod Rosenstein.

The history condensed into two episodes adds an emotional impact to the effect upon Comey, the FBI, and, ultimately, all of us. The Comey Rule is available now on Showtime.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.