The Regime Review – IGN

Chancellor Elena Vernham: The Iron-Fisted Ruler

Hidden behind palace walls, Chancellor Elena Vernham (Kate Winslet) rules the unnamed European country at the center of The Regime with an iron fist. Winslet grabs this role – equal parts politician and television personality – with both hands, walking a fine line between airheaded caricature, empowered feminine role model and insulated head of state. For fans of Armando Iannucci (Veep, The Thick of It, The Death of Stalin), The Regime will feel like familiar ground, since it deals with governmental incompetence, pulling no punches with those in power. Emmy-winning creator Will Tracy – no stranger to satirical jabs at the rich and powerful thanks to his time on the staffs of Succession, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Onion – steals stylishly from the Iannucci archives here, providing Winslet with a truly terrifying character in Chancellor Vernham.

A Power Play: The Rise of Chancellor Vernham

A leader whose arsenal of exploitation ranges from simple promises of power to something more inappropriate implied through provocative Christmas specials, Vernham’s preening self-importance is already out of control when we first encounter her, mid-palace-refurbishment. Workers are everywhere, housekeeper Agnes (Andrea Riseborough) is trying to anticipate every whim, and disgraced military official Corporal Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts) waits in handcuffs. It says a lot about The Regime’s view on political leverage that Zubak gets promoted and not punished; Vernham is initially attracted to his shameless brutality before learning to love his other intellectual assets.

The Complex Relationship: Vernham and Zubak

Beneath the intimidating physique and anger management issues is a man who knows how to manipulate others, sidelining political advisers with veiled threats and slowly stepping into the shoes of Vernham’s dead father to push his own agenda. By tapping into her emotional insecurities and becoming more of a man than those around him, Zubak makes himself indispensable as events escalate. These alpha male traits make attraction inevitable as Vernham gets drawn deeper into his web, allowing Winslet and Schoenaerts to exploit that on-screen chemistry creating moments of pure electricity between them.

Cinematic Influences and Political Satire

The influence of Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson can be felt throughout The Regime: Dr. Strangelove and The Grand Budapest Hotel help shape certain design choices and set the tone for absurdities. Insulated by wealth and privilege, Vernham lives in a reality shaped by her image and influence, which slowly comes unstuck when she’s forced to confront the poverty of working-class people. These intentionally uncomfortable moments skewer the sanitized public personas of politicians who are more R-rated in private.

The Downfall: Ambition vs. Execution

What keeps The Regime from achieving greatness is just how much it wants to convince audiences of its quality. This is clearly a good satirical drama with solid performances from Winslet and Schoenaerts, but there is also a degree of self-satisfaction coming through, as Elena often feels overly superficial. There are obvious parallels between real world leaders in a performance cranked up to 11, but the clash of different cinematic styles used to convey that can sometimes feel dazzling and draw attention to itself.

But perhaps that self-indulgence can be forgiven, because making a mockery of Eastern European autocrats through the eye of celebrity culture against the backdrop of civil war takes guts. The Regime can be riveting, and it does have some interesting things to say, but it also gets weighed down by its own ambition. There is no doubting the originality of its execution, or the noble intentions of Tracy and the ensemble cast, but The Regime still feels more like a case of style over substance.