Yesterday George Bush played Santa, pardoning 19 and commuting the life sentence of a convicted methamphetamine dealer in Iowa -- but it looks like time is running out for Lord Black of Crossharbour, who is probably banging a tin cup against the bars of his Florida jail cell demanding his own Christmas miracle. Or hunched over the keyboard of his Sony Vaio (Windows XP rathlist of people pardoned by George W. Bush -- from which his own name is still conspicuously absent.
This particular item from Lord Black's Christmas wish list hit the newspapers in late November, a bleak time of year when even the most pragmatic of us are tempted to indulge in unwarranted optimism. I first read of Conrad's yearnings in The Globe and Mail, having watched the latest episode of Indiana Jones on DVD the night before (in which a paunchy Harrison Ford puffs and labours to foil a fiendish Russki plot and sends his pacemaker into overdrive). It was an odd convergence of entertainments, Lord Black's Machiavellian scheming acting as an awkward counterpoint to Indiana's corn-fed American gung-ho; surely the cinematic potential of this mashup cannot have escaped the eye of Spielberg et al?
The final act almost writes itself: the incompetent (Josh Brolin fresh from his starring role in W.) breaks out the venal (Lord Black as himself) from the slammer -- while the world's financial system collapses in a mega-trillion-dollar special effect. Cue the 96-piece orchestra, John "Star Wars" Williams's score reaching a bombastic conclusion as a bank of first- and second-violinists reprise the hero's theme to an accompaniment of tympani and brass. Our Conrad sets his Charolais-like head in profile and cocks an ear at the sound of a Sikorsky Black Hawk rotor approaching overhead. "C'mon Your Worship!" -- a desperate George W. leans dangerously from the cockpit window, "C'mon!" Casting his ermine-trimmed cloak aside, Conrad lunges up and outward from his cell-block window and just manages to catch the rope ladder's final rung. The helicopter banks abruptly from the camera towards a carnelian sunset; credits roll.