Special Correspondents is a 2016 British-Canadian-American satirical comedy film written, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais. The film is a remake of the 2009 French comedy Envoyés très spéciaux, and stars Gervais, Eric Bana, Vera Farmiga, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin Pollak, Benjamin Bratt, America Ferrera and Raúl Castillo. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on 22 April 2016 and was released worldwide by Netflix on 29 April 2016.
News radio journalist Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) enters a murder scene posing as a cop. After getting the details of the crime, he is removed from the premises and, immediately after, reports the story live on the radio. When he returns to the station, Frank is applauded by colleagues on getting the story before any other press, but his boss Geoffrey Mallard (Kevin Pollak) warns that if he breaks the law one more time, he'll be fired.
That night, everyman Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais), who is also Frank's sound technician, takes his wife Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) to the station's annual ball, but has to leave for a stake-out with co-worker Claire Maddox (Kelly Macdonald). Eleanor then meets Frank, who sleeps with her, unaware she is married to Finch. The following day, Mallard puts Frank on a story about an uprising in Ecuador, and assigns Finch to accompany him. However, Finch tells Frank he can't go as Eleanor has left him. He also says he's written a letter, begging her not to end their marriage.
Finch later changes his mind about Ecuador, and he and Frank pack for their trip. At the airport, the two realize Finch has accidentally thrown their passports and plane tickets in a garbage truck. Frank and Finch return to the city and hide out at a café owned by Spanish couple Brigida and Domingo (America Ferrera and Raúl Castillo), located across the street from the radio station. With Brigida and Domingo's help, Frank and Finch fake their war reports in the couple's spare room.
After Finch and Frank decide they need to cover a bigger story, they invent a man named Emilio Santiago Alvarez, whom they claim is elusive and closely linked to the war. This report alerts the U.S. government, who now believe that Frank and Finch are targets for Alvarez's men. Meanwhile, Frank and Finch watch as other media outlets report on Alvarez, including their TV rival John Baker (Benjamin Bratt). Mallard calls Frank, asking for the two men to go to the U.S. embassy in Quito, where they will then be flown home. Panicking that they'll be found out, Frank and Finch destroy their SIM cards so they cannot be traced.
The next morning, Frank fails to check in with Mallard, worrying the station. The media begins reporting about Finch and Frank's disappearance. Claire visits Eleanor to offer her sympathy, but Eleanor seems more interested in getting her story out. Frank and Finch stage a hostage situation, and send out a message to the President, asking for a ransom or they will be executed. Later, Frank and Finch watch as Eleanor appears on TV. This prompts Frank to find out about her identity as Finch's wife. She then performs a song, "Dollar for a Hero", appealing for their safe return.
Eleanor subsequently becomes a national sensation and sets up a charity for Finch and Frank. Mallard asks Claire to get to know Eleanor, who is using her husband's plight so she can start a singing career. Finch accepts Eleanor's selfishness in the situation and says he's no longer upset that she left him. On Finch's birthday, he admits he can't keep up the charade any longer. Finch and Frank stop off at his apartment to take some of the donated money, but Eleanor catches them. The three decide to split the cash so they can all get what they want. Frank and Finch drive cross-country and sail illegally to Ecuador. They hitch a ride to Quito from a local, but first stop off at a rundown bar. There, they are held at gunpoint and taken to a small village, where they are locked up. Thinking they're going to die, Frank admits to Finch that he slept with Eleanor.
The next morning, the captors demand ransom from Eleanor but she refuses and tells them to kill Frank and Finch. When a captor returns, planning for them to fight to the death, Frank steals his gun and Finch ends up shooting him. They escape by stealing a car, make it to the U.S. embassy, and are flown home on a private jet. On returning home, they are greeted by the Secretary of State, press, friends and family. Frank makes a speech, and Finch bypasses Eleanor to greet Domingo and Brigida. Eleanor then speaks to press about her upcoming album, while Finch takes off his wedding ring. He approaches Claire, whom he realizes likes him for who he is. The pair happily walk off towards the city together.
In late October 2014, it was reported that Ricky Gervais would be directing a remake of the French comedy Envoyés très spéciaux, titled Special Correspondents (the French film's English translation), from his own screenplay. It was also announced that Eric Bana and Gervais would star in the film as a struggling radio journalist and his sidekick, respectively. In early May, it was reported that Kevin Pollak would have a supporting role in the film. On 27 May, it was revealed that Benjamin Bratt had been cast in the role of Bana's nemesis. On 30 May, Kelly Macdonald was reported to have joined the cast of the film. The following day, Vera Farmiga announced her involvement in the project; she was later confirmed to be portraying the role of Gervais' ruthless wife. Raúl Castillo was reported to have joined the cast on 3 June. A picture of the complete cast was revealed by TheWrap on 5 June, confirming the casting of America Ferrera.
Filming began for Special Correspondents on 19 May 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Production moved from Toronto to New York City on 27 June. Principal photography was completed in New York on 2 July 2015.
Gervais stated when he had picture locked the film, "Even though it would certainly be billed as a comedy, it's not a big broad loud obvious one...It's a bit satirical. A bit dramatic. A bit romantic." In September 2015, Gervais posted on his blog they had begun recording and writing the score for the film. On 6 November 2015, Gervais announced that he had finished post-production on the film. In February 2016, it was announced that Dickon Hinchliffe had composed the score.
On the same day as the film's release date was announced, four stills from Special Correspondents were released, featuring the characters of Eric Bana, Ricky Gervais, Vera Farmiga, Kelly Macdonald, America Ferrera, and Raúl Castillo. Gervais debuted the first official trailer on his Twitter account on 23 March 2016. A second trailer was released on 12 April 2016.
In November 2014, it was reported that Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions had purchased the rights to the film for territories including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Latin America. In April 2015, it was announced that Netflix had pre-bought the global distribution rights to the film for roughly $12 million. Special Correspondents received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on 22 April 2016, followed by an audience discussion with Gervais, Bana and additional cast members. The film was released worldwide on 29 April 2016.
Special Correspondents received generally negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 13%, based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 3.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Feeble writing and two-dimensional characters make Special Correspondents an unsuccessful, embarrassing endeavor for creator Ricky Gervais." Metacritic gives the film a score of 36 out of 100, based on reviews from 14 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Nick Schager of Variety gave the film a negative review, writing, "Ricky Gervais has yet to find another role as perfectly suited to his caustic sensibilities as The Office boss David Brent – or, for that matter, the impishly nasty, trash-talking persona he assumes for his Golden Globes hosting gigs. Special Correspondents doesn't halt that streak, affording him a loser-makes-good part that's as toothless as the rest of the film, about a cocky New York City news radio reporter and meek sound technician who unwittingly fake their way into the national spotlight."