The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Trump Prophecy

The Trump Prophecy is a movie that wants to be two different things simultaneously. The first eighty minutes are a narrative, while the final twenty-five are a documentary. Presumably, the idea was that the second section would compliment the first. In a way, it does, but the approach also ends up short-changing both. The film is based on a true story that will elicit different reactions in different people. Whatever your feelings about Donald Trump, the opportunity to delve into what makes his supporters so passionate falls victim to the shifting approach, as well as a steadfast avoidance of more complex issues associated with his election victory.

At first, this appears to be a standard faith-based film. Chris Nelson gives a sympathetic performance as Mark Taylor, a firefighter dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His night terrors have become so severe that he decides to quit the department. His loving wife Mary Jo (Karen Boles) encourages him to develop his relationship with God as a means of finding his way through the trauma. Mark follows that advice.

Then the story takes a twist. After months of seeing demons in his sleep, he suddenly sees an image of God -- and the Lord tells him that He has chosen Donald Trump to become president. This is in 2011. Four years later, Trump announces his candidacy. Mark confides his prophecy to a doctor, Don Colbert (Don Brooks), who in turn asks his wife Mary (Paulette Todd) to read his patient's writing on the subject. Deeply moved, Mary organizes a prayer chain to benefit Trump. Everyone then sits raptly in front of their televisions as they wait to see who will win on the night of Nov. 9.

In order for The Trump Prophecy to work, we need to believe God really has spoken to Mark. Even if we don't believe it happened in real life, we need to believe it within the context of the film. That doesn't happen. We're already told he has PTSD and, in one scene, he expresses a refusal to take medication to treat the symptoms of the condition, so the movie unintentionally suggests that his vision is little more than a trauma-inspired dream.

The notion that Trump is a divinely anointed leader has been around for a while. The film sidesteps some reasonable points that many non-Trump-supporting Christians have made. For instance, if God really wanted to dictate our president, why would He choose Trump -- a man with a known history of morally-questionable behavior -- and not someone who is the embodiment of Christian ideals? Why anoint someone who inspires love-him-or-loathe-him reactions, instead of someone who unites? Viewers who are diehard Trump supporters will not care about these things. Those with even a shred of emotional distance from the man are likely to find the movie's refusal to acknowledge them frustrating.

The Trump Prophecy never makes it clear why Mary and others believe Mark's prophecy. He basically says "God told me this" and suddenly people are true believers. None of them question why God would choose Mark -- a small-town fireman -- to reveal this to. No one expresses any doubt whatsoever about his claim. From a dramatic standpoint, that's a considerable omission, as it leaves a gaping hole in the center of the picture. If we don't understand why others are convinced, we're not convinced either.

The story part of The Trump Prophecy ends with the election night victory. Then the documentary section kicks in. It starts with a five-minute patriotic music video, complete with American flags flying in slow-motion and pictures of veterans. From there, we get twenty minutes of talking-head interviews. The subjects -- most notably former US Representative Michelle Bachmann -- expound on their shared belief that political policy should be shaped by religious doctrine. Specifically, they praise Trump's decision to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Agree with them or not, the interview subjects are all erudite and interesting to listen to, but the transition is jarring, particularly since the time would have been better used to develop the story's characters and themes more fully.

There are a couple of positives to the film. The message that Christian Americans should pray for the well-being of our country and its citizens is certainly a respectable one. The Trump Prophecy also has very good production values, considering its low budget. More than fifty students from Liberty University's cinematic arts department worked on the movie in various ways, gaining experience it would take them years to acquire in a traditional Hollywood setting. The movie looks professional, with some good special effects showing the demons Mark sees in his sleep and a skillfully-staged fire rescue during the opening minutes.

In the end, it's difficult to say what we're supposed to take away from The Trump Prophecy because it asks us to accept everything at face value, rather than forcing us to probe its provocative premise. If the movie was designed to convince non-believers that Trump really is God's selection, the paper-thin storytelling won't do the trick.

Regardless of your opinion of the man, Donald Trump has inspired fierce, unwavering loyalty from a sizable percentage of people in the country. There's a fascinating film to be made about that phenomenon. This one had a chance to examine the intersection of Evangelicalism and Trumpism, but lets it slip away.

The Trump Prophecy is unrated, but contains some mildly disturbing images and mature subject matter. The running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

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