Death of a President
Death of a
President has gotten most – if not all – of its
notoriety, because of its central conceit. It is the movie that –
through special effects – dramatizes the murder of George W. Bush.
Detractors are saying that
it is a dangerous and unnecessary provocation and I'm not sure that I
totally disagree. Not that I think that there will be trigger-happy
copycats out there, but I'm not sure that any living person deserves to have
people imagine their demise as entertainment. After all, even the most vehement Bush
detractors do not want to see him dead. An extremely lengthy jail term
would more than suffice.
Knowing that most sane
people have no interest in seeing Bush shot points out that this is all just
a gimmick. Granted, it is a very effective gimmick; no one in the
world would have even have heard of this film if not for its money shot.
Not that the movie is
necessarily exploitative, if anything the actual "assassination" is handled
with extreme restraint. There is just a shot sound effect, a quick
rushing of Bush to a limo and general chaos. You see no actual
However, you do have to wonder why the creators could
not use a fictionalized President and Vice President. As far as plot,
it would not change much. It just returns you to the idea that it is
for shock value.
Death of a President
plays out as if it were a documentary from somewhere in the not so distant
future looking back at the day in which Bush is shot to death after a
Chicago speech and the way it changes the world. (The date of the
crime is to be October 19, 2007 – almost a year to the day after the film's
release date in New York and LA.)
Once Bush is shot, though,
the movie turns into a relatively standard issue whodunit, with actors
portraying Bush's speech-writer, secret servicemen and others who are
involved doing talking head explanations.
Surprisingly, for a movie
which would seem – just from its storyline – like it would be inherently
against Bush, the man actually comes out looking pretty good. (Well,
except for dying and all...) Dubya is much more coherent, determined,
forceful and presidential than he ever has been in real life. Coscreenwriter/director Gabriel Range seems to be trying to be rather
impolitic, occasionally saving his vitriol – separately but equally – for
the anti-Bush protesters and Dick Cheney.
The protesters are in
general shown to be an unruly, violent, anarchic mob. This is
particularly evident in one scene where the the protestors block the
Presidential motorcade and another quick shot of the crowd cheering when it
is announced that he was shot.
Cheney, on the other hand,
gets much more specific vilification. He uses the attack to create an
even harsher Patriot Act, blames al Qaeda and works behind the scenes to
make sure that an innocent middle-east immigrant is made the scapegoat, even
though the federal authorities only have a very superficial case.
The meld of real life
footage and fictional recreation is generally pretty seamless, though most
of the time you do recognize that you are just watching a parlor trick.
One scene, in which Cheney delivers Bush's eulogy, is the only time in the
movie where the special effects melding reality and drama reach a level of
the astounding – you sit there wondering how the hell they did that.
However, you can't get over
a more nagging question, why did they do that? Death of a
President is fascinating as a technical exercise and makes for a
reasonably gripping mystery, but it somehow feels exploitative to plug real
people and issues – even ones as incendiary as Bush and the war in Iraq –
into what is undeniably a fictional plot.
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Posted: October 26, 2006.