Death Of A President (2006)

(In theaters, October 2006) I’ll say it right away: Don’t expect too much from this film. Yes, it’s about George W. Bush getting killed, but leftist members of the audience ought to calm down and take a chill pill, because this film is about the least partisan film one could make about such an event. Executed as a mock “documentary from 2008” relating events in 2007, Death Of A President fails to deliver on the promise of its title. Yes, the president is killed, and Stuff Happen. But despite touching upon themes of restricted civil liberties, anti-Muslim profiling, violent activism, class warfare, racism, the war in Iraq and other contemporary issues, the film seldom delves deep into its subject. That makes it a thematic failure, but worse yet is the increasingly irrelevant dramatic tension of the film, at least in its second half. The first half, before the shooting, effectively cranks up the tension and shows how the situation spins out of control. The second half, unfortunately, is reset into a whodunit that never completely works, especially given how the identity of the assassin is revealed to be someone who barely blips up earlier in the film. It doesn’t help that, for all of the mesmerizing quality of the archival footage cleverly cut into scenes specifically shot for this film, the film never feels completely authentic as a documentary: The tension feels artificial, the talking heads are obviously actors and the amount of information withheld until late in the film goes contrary to what we expect from non-fiction pieces. Too bad: For all of the nerve of the film’s premise, one would have thought that the filmmakers could deliver on their promises.

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