“Get out mah swamp!” said Shrek, and Donald Trump during his first presidential campaign – or was that, “drain the swamp” …who cares? We can all remember listening to Trump’s swamp related call to action and wondering what on earth he’s on about, and if you’re still wondering now, some four years later, well wonder no more.
There’s a whole documentary-film about it. We get to go within the swamp itself, following Republican congressman Matt Gaetz as he brown noses Trump on national television, with the President responding with what can only be describes as flirtatious flattery. All of this is fairly standard so far, but what’s not, is that Gaetz calls himself a rebel. He positions himself as anti-corruption, and says he wants restore integrity to the American political system. How long has he got?
The film follows Gaetz exerting his cognitive dissonance by sometimes limiting the war powers of POTUS, sometimes holding his hand as he further destroys the planet with his love of fossil fuels. The hypocrisy will get you as riled as three vodkas on a Friday, but it’s a fascinating documentary. We get to see how Washington operates, including how members of congress must buy their seats, and the role of the media in the blue vs red battle. But unfortunately, it tried to tick too many boxes. They attempt to cover the climate crisis, school shootings, anti-war campaigners…it’s just a bit much. It would be a stellar film if they just dropped 20 minutes, and focused on the deplorable yet charismatic Gaetz.
In Variety, Owen Gleiberman says the film “is full of insights and tasty details about how the culture of Washington operates,” but criticises that it is “a documentary about too many different things, even if part of its sophistication is knowing how those things are connected.” The high level of insight is also praised by Ben Dowell in The Times, who comments, “We learn a lot about Washington realpolitik.”
If you want to further understand the maze that is the American political system, this isn’t a half bad way to do it.
First shown August 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.