Winner of the International Critics' Award at the Toronto Film Festival, DEATH OF A PRESIDENT is conceived as a fictional TV documentary broadcast in 2008, reflecting on a monstrous and cataclysmic event: the assassination... more » of President George W. Bush on October 19th, 2007. The "documentary" artfully combines archival footage and carefully composed interviews presented in a respectful and dignified manner. The film doesn't advocate violence; rather, it shows its pernicious effects. It is exciting and questioning, and it offers viewers a riveting story -- creating a provocative political thriller that reveals larger truths.« less
David B. Spalding | Chromejob-dot-com | 11/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fantastic, thought-provoking, and taut. Strong words for a film which is a speculative fictional film about the supposed assassination of the President of the United States, and subsequent investigation of the crime. Though drawing controversy over its realism and incorporation of contemporary issues (the Patriot Act, US presence in Iraq, public dissatisfaction with George Bush, Jr's term in office), the film is at its heart a suspense tale, building drama over how and why the crime occurs.
Ignore the nay-saying criticism and enjoy this film for what it is. A political thriller done as well as the best."
B. Merritt | WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California | 04/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Finding out all of the angry press that preceded the release of DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, I just knew I had to see it. Unfortunately I couldn't watch it on a big screen, as Regal and Cinemark (the two largest cinema chains in the nation) refused to release it on their screens. In addition to this blow, the film was again hamstrung in its marketing department by CNN and NPR who refused to run ads. Politicians lambasted the film without ever seeing it, including (surprisingly!) Hillary Clinton who called it, "...despicable...", "...absolutely outrageous...", and "...evil..." To say that I was positively drooling to see it would be an understatement! And now that I've watched it I have to ask: What was all the hubbub about? Film makers have made projects with far less taste and were much more politically charged than this mock shockumentary. The most interesting fact is that the film doesn't take a political stance (neither left nor right) but simply explores what might happen if President Bush were assassinated. The phony documentary excellently utilizes stock news footage mixed with CGI and fictional characters/situations. Trying to tell what's real and what's "inserted" is impossible, which bumps this film up a notch in terms of entertainment.
Watching Dick Cheney give a eulogy for 'Dubya' was impressive, too, as the editors sliced and diced pieces of dialogue from Ronald Reagon's funeral in with some later speeches used by the VP.
It was entertaining to see what Cheney might do if confronted with such a situation. The news media coverage of the events were believable and, probably, sadly accurate (on another plain of existence, that is). That they would seek out members of the Muslim faith in which to pin the assassination on would not surprise me in the slightest considering this administration's track record on such things. This is not a jab at their policies, per se, but only an overall view of how narrowminded the Bush administration is when it comes to international relations ("You're either with us or against us").
The only negative aspect to the film is that it's pretty slow. The only action is during demonstrations in Chicago (again, mocked) and the actual time of the assassination. The rest is dedicated to mock news footage and mockumentary style interviews with people who were affected (directly) by the assassination.
Still, this is an interesting "what-if" that'll spark some great discussions. My only concern might be that on August 19, 2007 some sick-o might take it upon himself to make this a reality. I hope all people realize that killing is wrong, regardless of how you feel about the person. This was simply a film designed to make you think about where we are in the world right now, not to take drastic measures into one's own hands."
Technically Brilliant, But A Too-Expected Plot
Scot Carr | Massachusetts USA | 04/06/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The problem with a fictionalized documentary is how difficult it can be to keep the topic and persons depicted relevant when it takes place in a "future" that never happened. I'm not a technical nit-picker, but when people who are really gone now show up in a film depicting events from this upcoming October, it can be a bit jarring. This is a small thing. The fact that the Democratic party is making the war that much harder an issue for the President than now than I'd believe they would be "then" is much harder. This sums up the great flaw in this picture - the fact that America is more than a little awake enough to block even more draconian laws which may be suggested in the face of an assassinated executive.
In truth, "Death of a President" is captivating in its approach. Technically, it is dazzling as well. We've seen this footage before, but when "reconcepted," reality is much more jarring. How its done is well covered in one of the extras on the DVD - they list it as "interviews," but actually it's a mini behind-the-scenes featurette, but it does have a feel of reality when watched on the television. It was, after all, a made-for-TV movie in England. The film plays better that way rather than on the big screen. I only wish it had been criticized here for that rather than on the conceit, because it shoudl've been measured on merit alone. Americans, it seems, are a little too sensitive for cutting edge "reality fiction."
It should've been also critiqued on the script, which seems to suffer from the all-too-familiar "let's bash Americans for being too reactionary." True, after the events of September 11, the majority of my fellow countrymen overreacted in fear, which is understandable. Also true that we lept too quickly toward a war which we didn't need to fight (I'm not talking about Afghanistan - whatever the individual views on Iraq might be, the Taliban DID give comfort to a mass-murderer). What is ultimately true these days, when torture, profiling, and our need to remain in Iraq are being hotly debated anew, I'd like to believe that we wouldn't rush to judgment on someone based on flimsy evidence. "Death of a President" suggests such is still possible. Even when it was being filmed, I don't think this view held true. And the British filmmakers should've been more sensitive to that since their OWN country fell for the same lies when it came to Iraq.
However, overall, the movie makes for compelling viewing. Do we do this in everyday life - fall for the obvious suspect? Do we take more comfort in "The Conspiracy Theory?" Can a person really be vindicated in a hostile environment? Are we willing to listen to the truth, even when the wrong answer is more satisfying morally? On a smaller scale, it can be said all societies do. Making us look at that aspect of ourselves - rather than the shortlived "government protection necessity" that came from 9/11 - would be a better goal for the moviemakers to aim for next time. Sometimes a big-scale view of the problem makes it too easy to hide from ourselves."
Political Thriller as Cinema Vérité
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 11/24/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The fictional "Death of a President" (2006) has more plausibility and resonance a year after its initial release. Despite the occasional heavy-handedness of his fauxumentary approach, director/co-writer Gabriel Range reveals some provocative truths about America and its reaction to a hypothetical assassination. Now that the controversy and critical brickbats have died down, this flawed but fascinating film can be seen in a more objective light. "
Ex Post Facto
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"DEATH OF A PRESIDENT is most assuredly a film that will cause boisterous anger among those who are reacting to the title. It is an 'imagined documentary' about the assassination of President Bush on October 19, 2007, using this 'event' to explore the manner in which the US government copes with such a proposed event. In ways it echoes the JFK assassination, an event that still is under scrutiny as to why it happened and who was ultimately responsible.
Using actual footage of President Bush at an Economic conference in Chicago along with reporters and actors who supply the drama, the film 'shows' the assassination and the aftermath with the subsequent frightening state of Cheney as President. But the emphasis is on how the driver of the story is placing blame, finding a perpetrator and then convincing Washington and the public why the event happened. It is terrifyingly believable.
But few will see the film this way - a possibility and a series of consequences that might result. Perhaps it is better to quote the writer/director Gabriel Range who seems to sum it up best: "I have always known that I would be condemned for the very idea of this film, but I believe that sometimes it is not only acceptable for art to be outrageous - it is necessary. We live in a time of incredible fear... The advance condemnation of this film by politicians and pundits who have not seen - and may never see - this film reflects the landscape of fear in which we live today, and which my film attempts to address." Enough said. Grady Harp, April 07 "