A well made documentary that plays like something you might see on the History Channel.
Ultimately, this film didn't really go beyond being a whodunit.
Death of a President is a fictitious look at George W. Bush being assassinated. It's not really a look at the aftermath, so much as it looks at the Police state that America could become (some would suggest we're already there), and why somebody might have the motive to do in our Forty-Third President. Mixing a lot of regular news footage, with footage the filmmakers went out and created themselves, this film does a very decent job of putting itself off as something real. Sadly, they had to create faux news stations which anyone who watches the news (the majority of this film's audience) would most likely see as fabricated.
However, the filmmakers do a very good job of setting up the assassination as well as following it up in the aftermath. There was a decent amount of controversy about Death of a President when it was released theatrically. It makes sense simply because on the surface this movie looks like it was done in poor taste. On the contrary, it isn't so much of a slam job as an uneven film that doesn't pay off on the potential of what it sets itself up to be.
Director Gabriel Range, screenwriter Simon Finch and editor Brand Thumin are all on hand here to talk about how this movie came about. The main reason it seems that Death of a President was made was because they wanted to show where they thought America was as a country. The talk about mixing real footage with created footage, and how sometimes those lines got blurred. They explain how certain scenes were shot and how they utilized different angles and different video formats to put this movie together.
Director Gabriel Range, screenwriter Simon Finch, editor Brand Thumin and line producer Donall McCusker are heard here. This packaging says that there's a filmmakers' commentary and a director's commentary (aren't those the same thing?), but for some reason I was only able to access the track that featured all of these guys. They cover a lot of same ground as they do in the interview section. However, there is talk of why they opened this movie by showing iconic shots of America with an Arab voice over it. As much as these guys may not like the President, they do admit that he is "extraordinary" in front of a live audience. Apparently, some people thought this movie was too anti-Bush, while others thought it wasn't anti-Bush enough. Interestingly, they would shoot real anti-War rallies and then they would get some of the people there to come to their staged ones.
16x9 Widescreen - 1.85:1 DVD Screen Format. This movie looks like anything you might see on one of the cable documentary channels. It is well acted and the footage is manipulated and cut together, so it's very difficult to figure out what is real footage and what was created for the purposes of this movie. They have also done a very good job contrasting the staid, talking head footage, with the visceral feeling that the news footage contains. By taking reality and bending it, that seems to be Death of a President's strongest asset as a film.
Dolby Digital. Close Captioned. When one considers the amount of sound sources that have been employed in this film, it is pretty impressive how good they have gotten this move to be in an audio sense. While I didn't hear anything that blew me away, everything about the music, about the choice of footage used, all contributed nicely to the reality that was being put across here. I didn't hear any pops in the sound, or any points where the audio seemed to fail to underscore the images presented on screen.
Packaged in a red amaray case, this front cover features a Lee Harvey Oswald-type figure pointing a gun out a window, and underneath it is the image of pandemonium after the President has been shot. The back cover lists out the Special Features, has a bunch of quotes, a couple of pictures, an almost non-existent description, a cast list and technical specs.
The biggest problem that I had with Death of a President is that it didn't go far enough. You have this point where they find out who the real killer is, and then they explain how the killer got access to the President in just a few words. It is never mentioned again and doesn't make a lot of sense. While many valid political points are made (Muslim's being singled out by the Judicial system, families losing loved ones in the Iraq War, the growing discontent in this country with George W. Bush), I wanted to see what happened with Cheney taking office. I wanted to see where things went in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. I wanted to know who took office in 2008.
This stuff seems to be all set up but none of it ever pays off. After the wrong person is convicted (but remains in jail), this movie starts focusing on another family and it turns out that a member of that family most likely killed Bush. That is all well and good if this is a movie where they are tracking down the killer, but it sadly makes Death of a President seem both open-ended and unsatisfying. In many ways the ending felt too easy... almost like a cop out.
Death of a President was released October 27, 2006.