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A lot of these reviews seem to be by either US Americans who have yet
to see this film, and are so insecure about their patriotism they have
to come on to IMDb and slate it, or seemingly by people who made up
their mind before watching it and refuse to change their stance after
The point of the film is NOT some perverse fantasy about killing the current President of the United States of America, George Walker Bush Jr. People who say otherwise either haven't seen it or are wanting to purposely misguide you.
It is a drama in the style of a documentary (one that would air on television rather then a cinema screen) that looks at a possible run up to an assassination of the president, as well as how the investigation might be handled afterwards with the involvement of Dick Cheney (who would take over the Presidency if George Bush was assassinated).
The drama does not dwell or linger on the death of the president at all, in fact apart from Bush being crammed into his presidential car by secret service and whizzed away at high speed, that is all the viewer sees. You then find out about his death from mock news reports. Hardly a sordid gratification from a 'perverse' director.
The drama is convincing as a documentary by realistic interviews with decent unknown actors playing their roles just right without hyperbole as could quite easily be the case.
Without spoiling exact plot points, the drama makes a point in how the government may be more interested in finding a suspect and making the evidence fit the profile because it is more politically advantageous then actually running an investigation to find out exactly what happened, and draw suspects that way. Considering the current climate where seemingly the Geneva Convention is open to interpretation, and restrictions on Habeus Corpus, this suggestion is not far fetched in the slightest.
It aired on 'More 4' in the UK, a channel from Channel 4 television, and I'd imagine it would air on an American network at some point, or maybe a limited screening at cinemas if the US networks lose their bottle.
So for my US brothers and sisters, consider what I've written, and go SEE it and decide for yourself. That's what the freedom as a US Citizen entitles you to do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, ignore all the hype and crap that been spouted about how
this film is making money out of the idea of seeing George W. Bush
assassinated. Don't watch this if you want a political film pointing
out how much Bush did/did not deserve it. Reading some of the forums
and responses from uptight Americans bitching about people daring to
comment of American politics in a questioning way just saddens me. What
we have here is a well made and thought provoking piece of what might
happen, in today's society and with public feeling the way it is, if
President Bush was assassinated.
In fact, what director Gabriel Range manages to pull off very well, in my opinion, is actually managing to show as little of the actual "event" as possible. We get the build up, see the footage of the shooting in real time, with no irritating slow-motion or multiple angles, and just move immediately onto the aftermath.
Range questions what political reactions there would be, how the media would react, how the investigation would move, and each time he shows a scenario that is both shocking and depressingly believable. He shows the possibility of Cheney trying to manoeuvre events to allow him to move on Syria, only to be forced to back due to lack of any real evidence. He highlights the question of whether the FBI looking for Middle Eastern suspects before white suspects is racism or common sense? How the media immediately jumps on any piece of information and starts presenting it as fact. How any response would be tempered by anger at what had happened, and rightly so. Shows an Administration desperate to stick the assassin in the realm of Terrorism to back up their own policies.
But the backbone of the film is not to point out any one person or aspect that would effect all of this, but how the current atmosphere and the point that the world has brought itself would effect responses to such events. As soon as Bush is declared dead, it seems to have been far more important to have done something and found someone to blame, and more particularly to blame Terrorism, than to take time and care to make sure everything is certain. Zahra Abu Zikri is convicted due to the fact that people wanted him to be guilty more than the flimsy evidence put against him. As his lawyer says; "The moment they (the media) said 'Al Qaeda Assassin' he was guilty" and forensic experts were forced to work backwards. "We say he's guilty, find evidence to back us up on this." We're shown a US becoming obsessed that the killer had to be backed by terrorism, totally refusing to believe that an American would want to kill their own President.
Yes, you do always have to be careful about portraying the death of any living person, but this film would not have had the same effect if Range had used a fictional President, just as much as if he'd make up a fictional country to replace America. The Bush Administration is a vital part in this whole story. I understand why people might get upset, but they shouldn't use that as a reason to shout down political discussion.
Ultimately this film is what I really wish it had been seen as from the beginning, an excellent discussion on a "what-if" scenario, and I happen to believe this style of film is a vital part in discussing global politics. (See Peter Watkins The War Game for the best example of this sub-genre) Unfortunately, like Range's past works this film has been hijacked by calls of 'scare mongering'. Should we ignore problems if they we are scared by the outcome? Or just if they make us see a truth we don't want to admit? What you should notice by the end is however much you agree or disagree with the idea or the subject matter, the situation at the end of the film is unnervingly believable. That truth and reason are not the two most important things we look for anymore.
"Death of a President" is a truly original and intriguing 'future
documentary' about an event that hasn't happened yet. It is a
reflection on the events surrounding the October 2007 assassination of
George W. Bush in a Chicago hotel.
That future time is portrayed with an escalation of the anti-war fervor and a growing concern over the dangers posed by North Korea.
The film flips between staged scenes, real footage & documentary style interviews. It does a fine job of seamlessly blending those pieces to create a very plausible "precreation".
It is interesting watching this film on October 9th, 2006... a day which began with news of North Korea's first nuclear test. The first twenty minutes of the film are dotted with mentions of that scenario.
There are some chilling scenes in this film... especially early on, when you get a real sense of the protesters being contained and beaten down by Chicago police in full riot gear.
After a political speech in the hotel, the President is ushered down a standard meet-and-greet rope-line. It is at this point that the film lives up to its name. Shots are fired and one of the most frenzied scenes of any film this year ensues. Bush is thrown into a waiting limo, which speeds off to the nearest hospital. The crowd at the rope line is panicked beyond recognition. The FBI launches into gear. The media machine revs its engines. And the Chicago skyline lights the night air as an eerie sense of history-in-the-making takes hold.
Later that night, newscasters announce the death of George W. Bush and the film transposes into an FBI procedural... A virtual whodunit for us viewers. It feels very much like a David Mamet plot crossed with an Oliver Stone concept. It truly is a wonderfully imaginative idea played out with great skill and cinematic artistry.
OK - The secondary question in reviewing this film is this... Is it wrong? Is it morally questionable to have such a premise be the focal point of a film? Is it in bad taste?
Well, I have always been one to follow Roger Ebert's mandate that, "It is not always what a film is about, but how it is about it." I try not to pass judgment on the subject, but on the skill of the film itself.
However, this is a very brazen subject. Even for a Bush-hating liberal like me, this approaches the line, if indeed it doesn't cross it. It comes dangerously close to going too far.
That being said, I think it stops short of that line and delivers a legitimate scenario that merits people's attention. I believe this film earns the right to touch on this subject. It is a quality film and should not be thought of as a sensationalistic attempt to shock audiences.
Back to the plot... The film analyzes the hunt for suspects and forensic evidence. It follows the investigation all the way to a murder trial. I will not detail the story any further.
What this film does brilliantly is to shade the discussion toward issues like the Patriot Act, Homeland Security futility, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, and the apathy of the American public to seek truth and justice. It hints at Governmental manipulation, a wag the dog mentality. It tells personal stories of civilians and soldiers and suspects and Presidential aides. This film has a tremendously broad scope considering the budget.
"Death of a President" meanders patiently toward a conclusion you will probably not expect. This is a very thoughtful film that wants us to think carefully about the consequences of future terrorism. It asks us to contemplate the futility of such a crime and the repercussions it would have on future generations. In fact, it very much condemns this scenario as the worst thing that could happen.
I was riveted by this film. It is not just a scream for attention with a daring title. It has something very important to say and it says it very eloquently. That it dramatizes the assassination of a sitting President only adds to the palpable tension and urgency of its message. I think that "Death of a President" is one of the best and most important films of 2006. Go out of your way to see it as soon as you can!
© Written by TC Candler IndependentCritics.com
This film, Death of a President had been labeled "controversial" long
before the product hit U.S. shores. British director and co-writer,
Gabriel Range first introduced his film on U.K. television, and later
at the Toronto International Film Festival where it won the
International Critic's prize. This film has been given limited release
This docudrama opens with preparation for a presidential visit and speech at a Chicago hotel. You get a glimpse of the president's speech writer and an individual heading the Secret Service as they position themselves and prepare to protect the Commander in Chief. You get brief looks at large groups of protesters waiting in the streets to welcome the President.
And just like the title says - the President dies. All that happens in the first 20-minutes. The remaining 70-minutes of this film carefully details the hunt and investigation to find the killer. The impact on two minority families who may or may not be associated with the event. You see how an ethnic group becomes suspect and how hundreds are picked up for questioning. You get a peek at how the world receives the event and how the current phrases "terror attack" and "Al-Quida" are tossed into the mix.
The film is frightening because each and every scene is plausible. It's tightly written, directed and edited. The actors, who range from a close assistant to the President and First Lady to a spouse who may never see their innocent partner again, are all excellently cast.
Contrary to popular belief, Death of a President does not advocate the killing of a leader; instead it takes a credible look at America and the possible events following such an occurrence.
Trust me - this one you don't want to miss.
Death Of A President is an excellent film and is in no way
anti-American or Anti-George Bush. It has great cinematography, an
interesting and very plausible story line, and exceptional
performances. Whether you're left, right, center, or none of the above,
this is a a very good film for the thinking movie-goer.
The controversy, of course, stems from the use of the current U.S. President as the victim of an assassination. The assassination scene itself flies by and can't be more than 2-3 seconds long, so fast, in fact, you can be forgiven if you miss it altogether. It's what precedes and follows that scene that is the meat of the movie. Film footage of Bush and other real political figures is spliced seamlessly into this film, and includes footage of Vice-President Cheney and Mayor Daley of Chicago. None of these real persons are in any way abused or mis-characterized in the film. And the portrayal of fictional FBI agents, Chicago Police officers, and White House and Secret Service officials is, if anything, mostly very complimentary to them. This film does not do a hatchet job on anyone
What the use of real characters in a fictitious scenario allows the film-makers to do is to let the movie-goer realize that real actions have real consequences. And by putting real persons into a totally fictitious plot the film-makers can develop an accurate scenario - something that still can't be done with the Kennedy assassination of more that 40 years ago. We can't present an accurate portrayal of that real event even now because of the doubts cast on the whole event by the actions of our own government. The USG botched the assassination investigation so badly with its lies of omission and commission, that we will probably never know that whole truth about what happened that day in 1963. With the fictional scenario of Death of a President, though, we know exactly how things play out.
Whether you are a President, an assassin, an FBI agent, or just a movie-goer, realizing that actions have consequences - often unforeseen consequences, of course - is something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am no fan of George W. Bush, but when I heard about this film, I
wondered if its central hypothesis would come across as exploitative
and unnecessary, or if the "assassination" would serve the "narrative"
and illuminate some greater theme. It is quite provocative, obviously,
to make a movie such as this. The question for me walking into the
theatre was, "Is killing Bush in this movie necessary?" I do have to
say that the filmmakers handled this project with sensitivity and an
obviously deep and intelligent understanding of the American political
The film succeeds on a number of levels - first it gives the audience a bird's eye view of an event for which the public would normally have few if any visuals.
Second, Bush is portrayed positively in this - we see him at his most human and likable when delivering what was a real speech in Chicago. Bush is clearly not the buffoon many make him out to be, he's an expert at playing against type. The image of Bush we see before the assassination is quite positive. Therefore, the murder is indeed tragic.
The filmmakers wisely sidestep what would be typical (and uninteresting) coverage of a country in mourning and instead focus on the criminal investigation. We see how the FBI and other forces would be under extreme pressure to make an arrest. Their investigation leads them to an employee of Syrian descent who works in the building beside the hotel outside which Bush was shot. They delve into this man's past and find out he spent time in Afghanistan and may have had links to terrorists - despite the almost complete lack of forensic evidence, the rush to judgment is complete.
We know that if this scenario were to play out this is exactly how it would happen. The man would be convicted in the public's eyes - and his incarceration would serve the U.S. administration's political goals. When Dick Cheney is sworn in as President, his first response is to pressure the FBI to find a link between the assassination and Syria's government. Echoes of Cheney looking to capitalize on another national tragedy (9/11) in order to fulfil a political and economic goal (depose Saddam Hussein) are clear.
Without giving too much away, the film brilliantly implies that the real culprit in the assassination was a Desert Storm veteran who lost a son in the current Iraq war, driven by hatred to kill the President.
Was it necessary to kill Bush in this film? Perhaps the metaphor of killing the monster by slicing off its head, only to see it grow back another even worse is appropriate here. The film seems to be saying that Bush has created a legacy where a national tragedy can be used to justify criminal acts and wars with no connection to the original events - that the truth will always be buried if it doesn't complement the political and ideological goals of the powers that be.
In the end, while the real assassin's identity is implied, it's never entirely clear who did it. An appropriate ending as we, the public, typically are forced to live with confusion and misinformation over the events that shape our countries and our lives, never knowing for sure what really happened, only what our governments have told us to believe.
That Bush was assassinated in this film isn't really the issue. The real issue in this film is the sequence of events that the assassination set in motion. It's about how the current state of national fear and paranoia could produce the results that the film depicts in the AFTERMATH of the fictional assassination. It's about how contradictory evidence is suppressed or ignored, stereotypes are reinforced, rights are willingly surrendered by a frightened public, and hatred is stoked. It's about how a mere tidbit of dubious information (the questionable smudged fingerprint) can be hyped by politicians with an agenda into international confrontation. The film was an excellent and insightful commentary on the current state of political affairs in the United States, and I recommend it highly.
"Death of a President" was screened last night (20 October 2006) on
Britain's CHANNEL 4, which is seen widely in Ireland also. It is really
quite strange, being entirely like a real documentary but with acted
interviews. The integration of real archive footage of Bush and Cheney
with digitally manipulated images of the pair, to create various
moments in a false present, is eerie. Cheney even gives a funeral
oration for Bush at one point. Overall, the film seemed a bit too long
but, if nothing else, makes one worry about Cheney as president! It
also serves to make one realise how much is possible with digital
manipulation of images. It is realistic. Not a great movie but an
For this particular European, who has visited most of the US States at one time or another and who has many American friends, the film was another reminder of how worrying the United States has become. Still a great nation but hard to think of it as "Leader of the Free World" now that it allows cruel and degrading treatment of enemy suspects and indefinite imprisonment without a fair trial. Perhaps US viewers will find this movie in bad taste, but they should find some of the policies and actions of their current government a lot more distasteful.
I was very skeptical before seeing this movie. Title and premise of
"Death of a President" led me, and probably others, to expect either a
shallow Bush-bashing hack-job or some sort of bizarre, "24"-like "we
against the evildoers" hero-epic in a cheap documentary costume.
I'm happy to report: I was wrong. "Death of a President" is a very well written, performed and directed drama in the style of a modern (and hardly opinionated) documentary. And most surprisingly, it isn't really a movie about George W Bush.
It was a very smart move to make it a "mock" documentary, since it keeps the viewer on a skeptical distance to all the protagonists, so the movie doesn't push the audience into immediately placing the characters into the "good" and "bad" categories like it would be the case with a drama done in a conventional narrative. That gives room to examine the characters different motives and actions without having to rely on pressing the emotion-buttons too much. Of course this approach relies on convincing performances from all actors involved (mabybe even more so than with a conventional drama) to keep the illusion alive of actually watching a documentary.... over-acting could have been a disaster for this movie, and i'm very glad cast and director avoided that pitfall. Fine performances all around.
Now, to the obvious elephant in the room (and the reason why this movie is so controversial): Why did the makers of the movie not just have a fictional president killed? Shock value? Some kind of perverse joy in getting rid of the real President? I don't think so.
First of all, having the real President Bush in the movie obviously makes this theoretical exercise just more authentic and convincing. And more importantly, the viewer is forced to place himself somewhere among the characters, to place his sympathy and antipathy bets just based on preconceived notions, so to speak. I doubt there are many people who don't have a clear opinion about George W Bush and his administration (I certainly have mine. And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm no fan, to say the least). But that opinion (whatever it is) is important for the movie to get it's point across: it's the setup to play effectively with the viewers prejudices.
"Death of a President" manages to make you look beyond the stereotypes and makes a solid point about the misleading force of preconceived notions (for the viewer as well as the characters in the movie). The tag line "Do not rush to judge" is well chosen. The movie in particular makes a valid point about the worrying tendency in the US (and the world in general, I cant think of any society that's not to some degree affected by this "disease") of more and more dumbing everything down to "us versus them".
Be it the inflation of the word "Terrorist" as a magic opinion maker, (and drifting away from the movie for a second) be it Republicans versus Democrats, be it the insane shouting matches that pass as talk shows these days or be it the bizarre notion of an inevitable "clash of the civilizations".
The movie isn't perfect though. For example, the character of Bushs speech writer was a bit over the top in her praise for the man, while the protesting crowds remained rather stereotypical. Also, some doctored shots didn't quite live up to the otherwise impressive technical level of this production.
Yet "Death of a Presindent" offers a bit of much needed perspective on the Terrorism-issue; it sure does it by rather drastic means but it doesn't fail to deliver. Of course for me, as a distant observer of the USA, the fact that the actual President gets "assasinated" in this movie doesn't have quite the emotional punch as it must have for Americans. So I can understand the very mixed reactions it gets from reviewers.
But if you feel up to it, go see it yourself and then make up your mind, instead of rushing to judgment based on title and plot outline.
There hasn't been a movie like this before and many will build their
disapproval of the film around this fact. How can it be anything but
controversial when it concerns a speculation about a future crime - and
the crime concerns the person who is likely to be one of most
controversial US presidents this century.
But given the administration and its leader have been quite overt in courting controversy and have often appeared to care little for opinion outside their electoral and other power bases in the USA it can count for little that suddenly some creative team somewhere outside the USA provokes discomfort in the heartland of that political grouping.
This film can be regarded as both as a straight ahead thriller but also as a device to explore your own attitudes and those of others to certain key political issues. Its rather like the BBC1 TV series 'Spooks' which uses some very current-affairs-rich plot lines with potential to alarm some sensitive groupings and manages to craft mass entertainment with the power to stimulate and provoke. If stakeholders in a publicly funded TV channel have the maturity to cope with Spooks, I don't see why this attitude shouldn't be adopted more widely in the free world.
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