(Editor's note: We are doing a series of movie reviews based on films newly available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and other online streaming websites. You can read Mihir's previous reviews here, and here.)
While a film about a hero is generally the filmmaking norm, there’s always something far more fascinating about films on total, absolute dirt bags. We generally don’t see films of that kind – not just because it’s hard to root for the awful person at the centerpiece but also because the portrayal of awful people in cinema always comes with the contrived layer of making you ‘feel’ for them and understand why they do awful things.
Get Me Roger Stone, a new documentary on Netflix, makes no effort to explain why the person it chronicles became the way he is. And that’s only because its central character demands that he should not be regarded as a sympathetic broken prince.
Roger Stone is the prince of darkness – he was probably born evil, and as seen in the film, is extremely proud to be a sleazy and dirty trickster. This is not just a film but a mental descent into a dark power trip, the muddy waters that is international politics, and also a jaw dropping insight into how America ended up with Donald Trump as the president. And it does all this in a funny, irreverent way.
You don’t need to know anything about Stone before you see the film – in fact the less you know the better.
The film frantically unfolds the layers early on and then proceeds to shock us with a string of reveals. Stone started off as a small time politician in the 70s but went on to become pals with the biggest movers and shakers of American politics. As he kept climbing ladders some of his decisions became international policy that changed the course of world history – and no one knew who was pulling the strings because Stone kept himself carefully hidden in the darkness.
The more you get to know how Stone positioned himself at the epicenter of historic events the more unsettled you feel, that someone as demented as this chap is the one responsible for setting fire to most of the corners of the Earth.
You’ve disliked America for constantly interfering with other countries’ affairs? Guess who was responsible – Roger Stone.
Halfway through, the film lobs an atom bomb of information about how Stone was single handedly responsible for the creation of ‘political lobbying’ that has become the cornerstone of worldwide politics.
If you’ve been following the Trump-Russia investigation you’ll find a few familiar names turn up in this film – like Paul Manafort for instance, who is basically a Bond villain and one of the most terrifying individuals to have existed. It becomes obvious that Stone and Manafort were a match made in heaven, and Stone explicitly states that the two personally initiated a chain of events through the decades that would see whole countries bombing each other and them getting ridiculously rich because of that.
Trump, who is revealed to be more or less Stone’s creation also makes a cameo and showers praises on the dark prince. It feels like watching a whole gang of mobsters hilariously waxing eloquent about each other, with Stone showcasing his achievements with the excitement of a crazed child.
If you thought some of the cartoonish politicians in India were hard to digest, you’ll be baffled by some of Stone’s personality traits, like Richard Nixon’s tattoo on his back. Directors Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro & Morgan Pehme attempt to understand Stone’s weirdness but the man, who hovers around the cameras like a creepy smiling ghost takes it upon himself to explain why he’s the way he is, and how being incredibly greedy is just a way of life.
He makes no qualms about trying to whitewash his persona – in one of the most powerful moments of the film he stares at the camera point blank and says that he revels in people’s hatred, because if he weren’t effective people wouldn’t hate him.
Despite knowing fully well that he could get into trouble for confessing to crimes on camera, he doesn’t hesitate to tell us that he has harnessed the power of disinformation – a tactic that helped Trump win the election. We seldom see that kind of brazen shamelessness in a documentary, and it remains to be seen if this film is used to ultimately prosecute Stone for being involved in Russiagate.
The timing of this documentary is also prescient – it’s as if Stone wanted the film to come out right now so the world could see how he, a dark genius, put Trump at the White House.
Think of Stone as the Amit Shah of American politics – a razor sharp man with dubious morals who operates in the shadows, and has amassed so much power he’s become untouchable. Come to think of it Shah would have a far more colorful story than Stone’s.
Here’s hoping an Indian filmmaker reads this piece, watches the film, grows some balls and replicates the film’s formula to give us a docu about Shah.
Get Me Roger Stone is streaming on Netflix.
Published Date: Jun 22, 2017 11:26 am | Updated Date: Jun 22, 2017 11:27 am