Death of a President

Movie Reviews | Oct 26th, 2006

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Starring Brian Boland, Hend Ayoub, Becky Ann Baker, Michael Reilly Burke, M. Neko Parham
Written By: Simon Finch, Gabriel Range
Directed By: Gabriel Range

To call Death of a President a mockumentary would be to imply that it was made in jest. But there is nothing funny about this fictional film, which just happens to be structured in doc format, despite the fact that it is quite difficult to take seriously.

The focus of the “documentary” is the assassination of President Bush, who, in the film’s timeline, was shot outside a hotel in Chicago on October 19, 2007. The film follows the events leading up to the shooting, including an out-of-control protest, and then continues onto the aftermath, particularly on the investigation of who pulled the trigger. Nothing in the story is surprising, suspenseful or dramatic, and by the film’s end, I had to wonder what the point was in its being made. Sure, there are countless movies that don’t need to be made, but at least some of them are entertaining.

Anyway, the worst thing about Death of a President isn’t that it is pointless; it is that in such a context, there is a high expectation for something interesting to be said. The film instead plays like an obvious “what if …” situation, showing consequences as predictable as a heightened Patriot Act and continued problems with the handling of terror suspects –both of which seem to be happening without such a significant catalyst anyway.

Additionally, the film raises the question of what kind of audience it has been made for. Originally produced for British television, its controversial subject matter has made it a hot item for U.S. distribution, but what kind of person might want to see a film about a fake assassination of Bush? Surely not his supporters. And for anyone who might take joy in seeing the President killed, a sequence that is actually rather quick and simple, they might need to be reminded that Bush’s death means that Cheney takes over. If anything, Death of a President could at least deter any potential assassins out there.

Aside from the questionable motives behind the film, Death of a President suffers greatly in its failed realism. It isn’t enough to structure the story into the format of a documentary, but it really helps, even for a fake, to appear to have actually happened. Perhaps I was too caught up in the prominent appearance of Becky Ann Baker, who is very familiar to anyone who’s seen Freaks and Geeks, as a speech writer. Regardless, though, I don’t feel she or any of the others performing as interviewees gave raw enough performances to make it feel like they were in fact being interviewed for a documentary. Even most comedic mockumentaries have an unscriptedness to them.

For a better docudrama that is far more relevant, pointed and actually striking in its realism is Michael Winterbottom’s Road to Guantanamo, which has just been released on DVD. Check it out and follow the real news about what is going on in America. And leave Death of a President to the British television.

Favorite Scenes: The only scene that I found laughable enough to include here involves a masked protester breaking through a line of cops, who then ignore him despite the fact that hes running toward the hotel the President is in. I just cant believe the cops, who a
Rating: R
Running Time: 90 minutes
Overall Rating:


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