Movies: Poli Sci-Fi

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

As Air Force One land at O’Hare, protesters clog Chicago’s streets calling for George W. Bush’s resignation. Ignoring the tumult, the President gives a speech to a bipartisan group. As he exits the hotel, a gunshot is heard, and Bush collapses to the ground. The President has been assassinated–on Oct. 19, 2007.

Death of a President, the documentary-style fiction film directed and co-written by Gabriel Range for Britain’s Channel 4, has a premise so incendiary that the movie was denounced even before its premiere last month at the Toronto Film Festival, and Range has reportedly received death threats. D.O.A.P., as it was originally titled, is to open next week, but not necessarily at a theater near you. Regal, the nation’s largest chain, is one of several that have refused to book it.

The film is certainly worth seeing, both on its own merits as a sly blend of photo-realism and Photoshopping (the death was tricked up by superimposing Bush’s face on an actor’s body) and as part of a genre that seeks fanciful explanations for historical events or critiques the recent past by setting it in the near future. Call it poli sci-fi.

In the wake of the assassination, as suspicions fall on a Syrian man, now President Cheney suspends most civil liberties and itches to invade Syria. To leftists, a government that grounds its policies in paranoia may not seem like fantasy. For others, there’s fascination in the whodunit that Range weaves with his fictional talking heads from the Bush White House, the Chicago cops and the FBI. But the killer’s ID takes a backseat to the infernal cleverness of the enterprise. D.O.A.P. has a surface plausibility as seductive as a good political campaign.

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