Gabriel Range’s faux TV documentary about the October 2007 assassination of George Bush and its aftermath is skillfully crafted and utterly pointless. The smoothly assembled film features real archival footage, futzed footage, and actors who stand in as talking heads–Bush’s speechwriter, the retired head of security, the forensics expert, etc. It’s all perfectly convincing, but I am at a loss why anybody thought this film was worth making.

After a first-act buildup in which we see real footage of President Bush giving a speech at a Chicago hotel besieged by protesters, he is gunned down, JFK-style, by a sniper. What happens next isn’t as much conjecture but history slightly tweaked; the murder isn’t a jumping-off point for wild speculation, but serves as metaphor instead. After the President expires, the usual suspects are put into stress positions, Cheney is itching to attack a middle eastern country, and the Patriot Act is extended. Sound familiar?

In the press notes, Range talks about trying to create “an opportunity to arouse discussion about the impact of 9/11 on American life,” but he also wanted the film to “show the pernicious effects of violence” and have it be “relatively balanced and not overly partisan.” Seems to me that 9/11 itself furnished us with every opportunity we ever needed to talk about 9/11, and anybody interested in the pernicious effects of violence just has to turn on CNN. And what’s the point of making a movie with this much potential for commentary, and aim for a “relatively balanced” point of view? Death of a President is wasted opportunity that banks on shock value alone, with nothing to add to the discussion. Opens October 27.

Death of a President. Gabriel Range, 2006. *

[tags]president bush, murder, documentary, mockumentary, 1 star, film, cheney, war on terror, iraq[/tags]