"We’re going to change the world." A recap of Obama's last year in office as his staff – Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Ambassador Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes – flit about the world hoping to put in place systems and protocol that would prove difficult to dismantle once Obama left the White House. Greg Baker's documentary is a pacey, almost panic-driven exploration of life in the field.
You'll miss Obama. You'll come away from this, admittedly hagiographic documentary, lamenting the loss of this true visionary, this elegant statesman, and, going on this, a really nice guy. But Obama takes a back seat here with Kerry, Power and Rhodes front and centre. Kerry and Power, in what feels a blur of stepping off planes and onto planes (they spent a record time in the field), busy themselves with negotiating deals in Syria, Cuba and Iran, try to reclaim the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, and help draft the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Obama is on the road too, making memorable speeches in Hiroshima and Laos in an attempt to smooth over American relations, the first American president to do so. It's left to Ben Rhodes to man the pumps back home, and he has in own problems with a disparaging New York Times article after he claimed that the press knew nothing about politics.
The flitting about takes a real emotional toll on Power, especially during the Boko Haram situation, as she tries to juggle her demanding job (including reading Russia the riot act over a bombing in Syria) job and the upbringing of her young son. But the passion and dedication she, and the others, commit to the job is astonishing. They care – they actually give a damn – and stress that every avenue of diplomacy must be exhausted thoroughly before the possibly of armed conflict.
What’s astonishing too is Rhodes' chilling remark that everyone thinks the White House is awash with advisors a la The West Wing when it's really just him and a handful of aides, and that the incoming Trump will have no one to stop him from doing what he wants to do. We know how that turned out.
It might be one-sided but when the other side is Donald Trump that's a-okay with me.