The Rough ‘Final Year’ of Ben Rhodes

Ben Rhodes sputters incoherently at the end of “The Final Year,” the documentary about former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team and their diplomatic efforts throughout 2016.

He’s rendered speechless by an event he says wasn’t going to happen during the film: The election of Donald Trump.

Yet throughout the documentary, he’s also flummoxed by finding out Vladimir Putin isn’t out to promote what the U.S. thinks Russia’s interests are, the media’s response to his pronouncement that they were stupid rubes suckered into promoting the Iran nuclear deal, people who think climate change isn’t a bigger threat than Islamic terrorism, and at one point, getting into the back seat of a van.

These moments and more are captured in Greg Barker’s hagiographic film about Rhodes, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Obama himself as they circle the globe wondering why things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to be.

The New York Times called it “tepid and self-congratulatory,” noting it does pick up a bit in its final half-hour when the movie’s protagonists are thunderstruck by Trump’s election victory.

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