It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In 2012, political commentator, author, disgraced former university president and convicted felon Dinesh D'Souza released "2016: Obama's America," a documentary that purported to investigate our president's past in order to uncover his hidden agenda that, left unchecked, could very well lead our country to the brink of destruction. Although the film was mocked by many of those who bothered to review it (it did not receive advance critics screenings, meaning that there were few reviews when it opened and that supporters could then claim that it was being ignored by the lamestream media) and most of D'Souza's findings and conclusions were widely discredited by scholars, journalists and others with a weird reliance on things like facts, the film became a hit amongst conservative audiences and would pull in $33 million dollars at the box office, making it number 2 on the list of top-grossing political documentaries, just missing out on beating "Fahrenheit 9/11" by only $86 million.
D'Souza has returned with "America," a movie that arrives on the heels of an ad campaign that suggests that it will be a bit of speculative fiction examining what the world might be like if George Washington had been felled by a British bullet during the Battle of Brandywine (on September 11, 1777, for those of you playing at home) and, as a result, the Revolutionary War had been lost and the United States of America had never existed. However, anyone turning up at the multiplex in order to see what promises at first to be a blend of "It's a Wonderful Life," the immortal anti-Communist short "Red Nightmare" and an evening of the History Channel will be outraged to discover that, following a brief prologue, the film completely abandons that promised conceit and never returns to it. If it is any comfort to those viewers, it is that they will soon be sharing their outrage with anyone who turned up in the hope of witnessing cohesive thinking or rudimentary filmmaking skills.
Having seen all of his dire predictions about the direction of our country under Obama's lead in "2016: Obama's America" come true—his perspective, not history's—D'Souza finds himself pondering the state of his adopted country and wondering why so many people want to destroy it by undoing everything that made it great in order to remake it into some kind of socialist nightmare. Furthermore, he wants to get to the bottom of the notions that monsters like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael Moore and other members of the radical cabal use as a basis for their alleged hatred of America—that we stole the land from the Indians and committed genocide against them to boot, that we seized a huge chunk of Mexico as well, that we are trying to dominate the world and as much of its resources as possible, that there is a staggering amount of income inequality that unfairly leaves the vast majority of our wealth in the hands of a few people and, of course, slavery. In an unexpected twist, D'Souza amazingly manages to refute all of those claims to the satisfaction of his target audience.
Most of his theories and suppositions are misleading at best (he makes a point of mentioning that Obama supported the bank bailouts but fails to mention whose presidency they occurred under) and silly at worst (such as his assertion that the real face of income inequality is none other than Matt Damon since he made a lot of money from those Jason Bourne films) and will presumably be picked apart in the coming weeks but in order to save time and energy all around, I will not criticize it on those grounds, except to wonder why he left the recounting of the Texas-Mexico conflict to Canadian-born Ted Cruz. My job is to analyze how the film works in cinematic terms and on that basis, D'Souza and co-director John Sullivan (who also directed the other big conservative-leaning documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed") have failed miserably. It looks terrible, it plods along with all the verve of a PowerPoint presentation, the occasional dramatic recreations are exceptionally cheesy and the interview footage is so needlessly over-edited that you get the feeling that something may have gotten changed around in the cutting room.