Four Hours at The Capitol

Rating 8.3
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 90 mins

Nowadays, it’s hard to be shocked by what you see on the news. We see footage of countries shutting down in the face of a pandemic, cities set on fire during mass protests, even Travis Parker getting down on one knee for Kourtney Kardashian – we seriously did not see that one coming. But there were few newsflashes more choke-on-your-dinner shocking than when right-wing rioters stormed the Capitol of the United States.

It’s easy to pass off the events of that day as over-egged current affairs, far removed from reality, as we have a habit of being when consuming unsurmountable amounts of media day-in, day-out. Or, as Lucy Mangan puts it in The Guardian, “ruined by Hollywood spectacle as we all [are], perhaps it didn’t look that bad” but the way in which documentary Four Hours at The Capitol takes us behind the Capitol’s doors, showing “the mentality and mechanics of the crowd, and given the proper scale by which to judge – it was that bad, and worse.” 

+ Prefer British politics? Read our review of Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution.

Likewise, in The Telegraph, Anita Singh speaks of how the documentary is successful in rewriting a clearly untrue narrative about police involvement on the day. “The police,” she says, “it was plain from this gripping, vivid documentary, were vastly outnumbered and afraid for their lives”. Moreover, Singh mentions how the film veers away from focussing on the “supposed comic elements” like “the “Shaman” in his horned helmet”, a bizarre image burned into our collective consciousness. Instead “Jamie Roberts’s film made clear that this was a war zone, and it took us right into the heart of the battle.”

Despite this, the sheer madness of the event makes the film “90-minutes of edge-of-your-seat suspense”, in the words of the Financial Times’ Suzi Feay. “A Hollywood action director”, she goes on to say, “with a mega-budget and a roster of stars might still be struck by this account”, so don’t stress – it’s far from a snoozy watch.

+ For another brilliant documentary hot off the press try The Velvet Underground.

We love a good documentary here at Must, but this one – pardon the pun – trumps the rest. The only thing that would improve it is a cameo from Louis Theroux, awkwardly hovering alongside the infamous horned man, naively asking about his thoughts on the election. Next time, hey?

First shown October 2021.

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