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The Undefeated Review

John on June 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

I saw the undefeated two weeks ago at Right Online. I actually decided to wait until it was getting a little more attention before offering my take. With the premiere in Pella last night, now seems like a good time.

The cut I saw was rough. Most of the visuals were in place but the audio still had some problems, enough that it was distracting at times. I’ve done audio and video editing professionally so maybe this stuck out to me more than it would to most people.

Despite the technical issues involved in seeing a rough cut, the film was both impressive and surprising. The Undefeated isn’t the movie you think it’s going to be. It’s about an hour and 45 minutes long. Roughly the first half of that is taken up telling the story of Palin’s rise in Alaska in great detail.

Now let me say that I was following the news pretty closely in 2007-2008. I heard the soundbites about Palin taking on big energy and her own party. That’s all they were: Soundbites. The Undefeated lays out Palin’s story as it happened using archived news footage. You see it happen, albeit in compressed time.

When I had a chance to interview the film’s director the day after I saw it, this was the part of the film I couldn’t get over. I actually asked him the same question twice. How is it possible that no one has seen all of this media until now? It really is stunning when you see it. Palin has such a powerful history as an outstanding executive. Why didn’t the McCain campaign get some of this stuff out there?

Director Steve Bannon pointed out to me that it was less than a month from the time Palin was announced as VP to the time the economic collapse hit and basically sealed McCain’s fate. Maybe there just wasn’t time.

The second half of the film (maybe a little less) focuses on her speech at the convention and what happened afterwards. Here again, the film surprised me. This is not Media Malpractice (which you should also see). All of the details of Palin’s month-long battle with the press are left out of The Undefeated. No Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric rear their heads. We move from her triumphant nomination speech to, within a few minutes, the campaign ending and her return to Alaska.

The film spends some time on the phony ethics complaints that were being filed and leaked by a group of bloggers in Alaska. It attempts to show how this led to her resignation. Here again the film really changed my perceptions of Palin.

When Palin resigned, I had pretty much the same reaction everyone did: “Huh?” It didn’t make sense to me at the time and I wondered if her critics claims that she was a quitter wouldn’t stick and make it impossible for her to have a future in politics.

But in the context of the film, I felt I understood her decision. Palin is restless, no doubt about it. It’s not just in politics. She attended several colleges, as we all know. But her restlessness is not from laziness or boredom. Palin is aggressive. She’s not going to school to say she went, she’s going to get something out of it. You see that quality in the first half of the film.

After seeing the movie I believed she could win.As Chris Christie might say, she didn’t run for office to be somebody, she ran to do something. Once the distractions made it impossible for her to do something, just “being” Governor wasn’t enough. To use a metaphor, Sarah Palin doesn’t have any cruise control where you can set it on 65 and relax. She is aggressively moving forward for her beliefs or she is looking for a new place where she can do so.

I have no doubt that her critics will have another take, but this is the Palin presented in the Undefeated and I have to say, I found it believable and inspiring. When you see her record of accomplishments and what was happening to her in Alaska, the resignation makes sense. Of course Sarah Palin isn’t going to stand around accomplishing nothing while people take pot shots at her. To do so would truly be out of character.

There is a coda to the film which connects Sarah to the Tea Party. It features a bit of her appearance in Wisconsin during the collective bargaining battles. I was familiar with this material. I actually posted it here on VS when it happened. But again, when you see it in the context of her story, well…I felt different about it. I could see the straight line through all the ups and downs. There is a vector in Palin’s story that is powerful and admirable. The media has decided she’s down and out, but she’s still rising.

To be honest, I went into the film thinking Palin didn’t have a chance at the nomination, much less beating Obama. Too damaged by her time in the spotlight. It wasn’t her fault (in my opinion) at least not mostly, but nevertheless the story about her was written. There’s no coming back from a media savaging like the one she has endured.

After seeing the movie I believed she could win. I don’t know how or when, but I believe she could do it. It won’t be by waiting her turn and being the heir apparent of the party bigwigs. That’s not the way she does things. It’s not the way she’s built. If she does it, it will be by making her own path, clearing the brush with a machete or her bare hands if necessary. She’s compared herself to a pitbull and a mama grizzly, but I think that may be underselling herself a bit. She’s more like the Wolverine of national politics, lots of people have drawn blood but, so far, no one can stop her.

As to the big question still on the table, The Undefeated made me think she’s almost certainly going to run. Maybe now, maybe in four years, but I think she wants it deep down and I think anyone who thinks the full frontal assault by the media has her beat…just go see the movie.

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