A Storm Foretold

Dismayed by the unprecedented amount of manufactured narratives (i.e., lies) being issued by the Trump administration, Danish journalist Christoffer Guldbrandsen decided to come to the U.S. to see what he could uncover and found his unique access in Richard Nixon’s dirty trickster and Trump stalwart Roger Stone.   Guldbrandsen not only witnessed, but documented, jaw dropping backstreet dealings and blatant admissions leading up to January 6.  2020, “A Storm Foretold.”

Laura's Review: B-

While much of the more shocking content of writer/director Guldbrandsen’s documentary was reported on after his raw footage had been viewed by members of the January 6 Committee, it is still almost unfathomable to watch a man as destructive as Stone orchestrate the worst type of chicanery and walk away unscathed.  Even more disturbing is how entertaining all this can be, Stone often appearing humorously genial, his demeanor appearing to compromise the filmmaker even if only a little bit.  We come away with a picture of one strange dude, the man who so often resembles Batman’s villain The Penguin bragging about his Nixon tattoo (‘I'm the only person you know with a dick on the front and the back’) and using copious amounts of Aqua Net on his dyed hair.

Guldbrandsen is, in fact, his own worst enemy here, not only injecting himself into the proceedings too often, but narrating the film with the unmistakable intonations of Werner Herzog, a speech pattern he does not exhibit when on camera, making him look phony.  The entire midsection of the film is given over to Stone’s whiplash decision to go with a different documentary crew (presumably for money), Guldbrandsen’s fretful retreat to Denmark and resulting(?) heart attack on the eve of a planned return.  An apologetic Stone welcomes him back, stating that the other guys apparently intended to do a ‘hit job’ on him, leading us to wonder just what he expects of the Dane willing to hold Stone’s martini and drive at the same time.

Yet for all the film’s questionable methods, we do get an unusually open look at Stone beginning with his handling of an enormous cigar, a habit he claims to have had since someone handed him one at the age of seven at the Republican National Convention.  He’s chummy with Alex Jones, appearing on InfoWars to advise viewers their host will pay them $1,000 to appear on camera wearing one of their Clinton Rape t-shirts and $5,000 if they’re caught yelling ‘Clinton is a rapist’ while doing so.  He lays bare the difficulty of dealing with Trump, a man who is constantly handled but must be given the appearance of thinking for himself and explains how to manipulate him using flattery, a successful tactic even if that flattery is demonstrably false.  He informs folks at a fund raiser that it is ‘amazing how many people want to give cash,’ as he pockets surreptitiously extended wads.

There are few people in Stone’s orbit who one could imagine working in an office with, beginning with his Communications Director Kristin Davis, a middle-aged, buxom bleached blond with a penchant for skin tight pink.  Asking whether she can accompany him to his court date for obstructing the Russia investigation, lying to the F.B.I. and witness intimidation, Stone informs her she would be too much of a distraction for his wife Nydia, the latter of whom we see far too little of here.  It isn’t surprising how often this circle is compared to a circus, given characters like this, Jones and Guiliani. 

It is surprising to witness Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz being savvier than Stone about checking for recording devices as they’re nevertheless caught on camera and microphone discussing obtaining a pardon from Trump.  ‘I could have made this go away real easily,’ Stone tells Guldbrandsen, ‘but I couldn’t have lived with myself.’  In other words, he has the goods on 45.  He also lays bare the plan to invalidate the election by Trump simply declaring ballots suspect and himself the winner and hosts the (since incarcerated) Proud Boys who love to hobnob with him in his kitchen.

After being piqued that he has not had a car sent for him to speak on January 6, instead retreating to his hotel room to watch the violence ensue, Guldbrandsen captures an astonishing moment, Stone complaining that the Trump camp doesn’t know what they are doing and quotes JFK, of all people – ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’ – apparently without irony from the man we’ve heard say ‘let’s get right to the violence.’

Trump, he tells his documenter, has made the single worst political mistake by surrounding himself with morons and should be impeached for abandoning his loyal soldiers.  He then promises to murder Guldbrandsen if he uses that.  Apparently, he must have told Trump he was just joking as he was at his 2024 campaign kickoff.  As for Guldbrandsen?  We last see him commiserating with his subject in a café, both men looking crestfallen.  It is difficult to come away from “A Storm Foretold” without thinking this filmmaker has made a friend, despite his words of dismay over the dismantling of democracy.  The film is unsettling in more ways than one.

Robin's Review: C-

Abramorama releases "A Storm Foretold" in select theaters on 1/5/24.