Everybody has heard about this flick and the press sure can’t get enough of the controversial film “Death of a President,” but is the substance of this fictional docu-drama really worthy of the hype?
More than a Kennedy-esque assassination tale of “whodunits,” this film tries to express the American sentiments that lead up to the president’s death. It also explores the serious repercussions for the victims involved, in addition to the negative effects it has on the U.S. government and its effect on the Patriot Act.
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, I’m not buying it.
However, before tearing this film apart, I will give credit to the filmmakers where it is due. First of all, at its core, the film is a novel cinematic idea. The film plays out like a documentary you would see on the History Channel, with the addition of a dramatic score and all the pain and conviction you would expect of the cinesma, which is supposed to take place in the aftermath of the assassination of President Bush.
The film takes place in late 2007, and the events leading up to the assassination are all very profound. The stage is set with Bush flying into Chicago to make a speech on a troubled economy while a riled up crowd of protesters lines up outside of the conference to vehemently and sometimes violently show their disgust (and hatred) for the president.
It portrays a public that pushes beyond the brink of peaceful protest to get their point across, which sets the tone for the eventual pinnacle of the film – the assassination.
While all of these events are enthralling – the filmmakers did one fine job of setting up a mood of anxiety, anticipation, and dread or excitement (depending on your overall opinion of our president) leading up to the assassination-it’s the second half of the film that crumbled the foundations of any favor I had for the style and substance of this film.
Immediately after the assassination, the filmmakers try to break down how the U.S. government would handle such a prolific event, but do no more than convey ugly anti-government stereotypes.
Jailing hundreds of individuals while attempting to show the government’s gross reputation of racial profiling and their attempt to tag the assassination on a terrorist group in the Middle East is nothing more than a stereotypical jab at our heavily criticized government.
As I’ve mentioned, the underlying theme of the film is more or less a critical attack on the Patriot Act and how the assassination of the president would allow the government to abuse and violate the Constitution even further to get the supposed bad guys. I can respect that attitude, and it is certainly worthy of debate.
But what I could not respect was the complete lack of a segment depicting the reaction from the American public. Aside from the commentaries of the jailed suspects and their families, at no point in the film does it share what reactions the American public would have if the president were to be assassinated.
Instead, the film rambles on about a government justified in its Constitution-bending amendments and the plight and victimization of the assassination suspects involved. It more or less makes the U.S. look as if it truly has and will become a rights-violating police state, with or without Bush.
Furthermore, the film does a great disservice to American protesters when they are betrayed as violent, anarchistic thugs, who would resort to violence and praise the murder of their own president, when in essence, the core of their protest (at least in the film) is against such acts. It makes them look hypocritical and savage.
In addition, the film paints an image of an America that has become sick and violent thanks in large part to Bush and his backers, but fails to include an image of the president as the evil war-mongering leader that he is.
Thus, in failing to do so, “Death of a President” instead makes the assassination of the president look like the tragic end to a hopelessly misguided yet optimistic patriot, while making the rest of us look like brutes that act on irrational impulses, full of perverse notions of right and reason. I don’t buy that one bit.