Documentary auteur Michael Moore’s latest is, of course, largely about The Dark Age Of Trump, and although that might fill some audiences with horror, this remains one of his key pics and, despite niggling flaws, pretty bloody shocking.
Moore (who predicted Trump would be President in 2016 and enraged the Left) serves as writer, director and co-producer here, but he’s not quite the centrepiece any longer, and we actually see rather less of him and instead hear his sometimes almost despairing narration. And perhaps it’s easy to see why: after all, he’s older (64 this year), jowlier, angrier and wearier – and no wonder.
We naturally open with a flashback to Election Night 2016, Michael ponders where it all went wrong, and yes, it all seems like an awfully long time ago. This notorious evening gives the film its title (the numbers switch places from his Fahrenheit 9/11 provided you use the American dating system) and shows the agony on Hillary Clinton voters’ faces as they realise that what was supposedly a done deal and won race was anything but.
The focus shifts to Trump himself and there’s a flashback to the time Moore was on Roseanne Barr’s short-lived talk show 20 years ago with ‘The Donald’, and Michael sounds like he hates himself when he recalls how he was asked to “tone it down” (and he did too – almost). We then get into a long, horrifying list of so many of the terrible things Trump has done before and since he’s been POTUS, from vilifying migrants to pretty much groping Ivanka (who looks scared in photos from when she was a teen), and if you can bear to watch it all, you’ll have to agree with the filmmaker that DJT has always been totally unafraid to play out his myriad moral outrages in plain sight.
Moore, however, can’t resist cutting to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, harking back to his first film Roger & Me and, perhaps, getting a little off-topic. The whole appalling contaminated water saga in that already terribly depressed town is shown in all its glory and Moore gets notably bolder, calling Governor Rick Snyder a racist and a criminal. It’s hard not to believe him too, but if Snyder knowingly let children in black communities die, then he’s also a murderer.
You also might just breathe a sigh of relief when Barack Obama is seen late on and you suddenly remember how an actual President conducts himself – or do you? Does this much-mythologised figure have some part in this horror story too?
Looking for some ray of hope and going once more for the underdogs, Moore returns to form when we see how Virginian teachers engaged in strike action despite fears of losing their jobs, and later he has an audience with those outspoken Parkland survivor kids in a supposedly secret location. And it’s a relief to see a bit of ‘people power’ after so many nightmares.
Finally there’s a glimmer of Moore’s own Bowling For Columbine as he considers how many Trump supporters have guns (LOTS of guns) and proudly proclaim their willingness to engage in violent revolution. We also have a sort of apocalyptic coda and, you guessed it, complex comparisons between Trump and Hitler which are unnerving, but do maybe go one step too far. After all, Trump is surely too stupid to pull off any of Hitler’s tricks, and probably thinks that the Third Reich is a German hamburger chain.
Early on Moore also notes that Trump has been responsible for so many scandals and controversies that we’re all exhausted and can no longer see them for what they truly are, meaning that he can happily continue. And given how damn long it takes to make any movie, this MM doco is already a little out-of-date and so much here looks like old news, now that we’re currently dealing with the ‘#MAGA Pipe-Bomber’, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the migrant caravan that Republicans want to nuke, and so much more.
And please, anyone! Is America great again yet???