Eye For Film >> Movies >> Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
After rage and counter rage, accusations exploding like shrapnel, the Walt Disney corporation disowning the film before Cannes and the Palme D'Or, it seems as if Michael Moore's documentary on the failings of the Bush administration and how it has damaged the reputation of America throughout the world is already history.
For two years after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon building in Washington by Saudi extremists, it was deemed unpatriotic - treasonable, if you will - to criticise the government. Words such as "freedom," "terror," "security" and "homeland" were used to smother dissent and divert attention from the truth of what was happening at Guantanamo Bay and in bomb-shattered suburbs of Baghdad.
The feeling of ordinary people everywhere is helplessness and fury. Fahrenheit 9/11 reflects this admirably.
Since the film was made, Richard Clarke's insider revelations have been published and the scandal at Abu Ghraib exposed. There seems no end to the horror, the double talk, the lies and the appalling diplomatic - let alone humanitarian - catastrophe. And yet the man stands. Or rather, the men - Bush and Blair.
Compared to the anger felt by those who watch, incredulous, at the rampant arrogance of the neo-cons in The White House and the (allegedly) socialist Prime Minister of Great Britain, Moore appears almost gentle in his admonishment. Inundated with too much negative information and not enough time to nail down the hypocrisies/corruption/contradictions, he softens the blow with humour.
For those who can remember life before 9/11, George Dubya's impact as President was even more laid back than that of Ronald Reagan. Moore notes that he spent 42 percent of his first year on holiday. He ignored warnings about al-Qaeda, cut back anti-terrorist budgets and cared little for foreign affairs, except to get the guy who tried to kill his daddy.
Moore remains mostly off screen, unlike in Bowling For Columbine, taking the role of investigative journalist, exposing the Bush family's connection with the bin Ladens and other shady deals on the Middle East/Texas axis, as well as George Jnr's failure in the oil business, before being shoehorned into state politics on the back of his name. To say that it stinks is like pinning a label on a skunk's tail that reads: BE NICE OR ELSE.
With the use of film snaps from off duty moments and government leaders "in make up", he can undermine their dignity with ease, but what comes across naturally is Bush's schoolboy charm. He appears diminished, intellectually dwarfed by the hard-faced grownups surrounding him, and surprisingly vulnerable, as he sits on a child's chair in a primary school in Florida, reading My Pet Goat, after being informed by an aide on September 11th that his nation is under attack.
When the film stretches beyond propagandist hyperbole, it reaches the bloody corpse of Bush's good intentions, to a mother from Moore's home town still grieving the death of her son, the soldiers in the field who say they didn't come here to kill innocent people and Iraqis howling amongst the ruins of their bombed houses.
Moore has too much to say to be consistently coherent. Fahrenheit 9/11 requires a second sitting to take it all in. By the end, you are left, like the lady from Flint, choking back tears of pain and fury.
"Why?" she demands. "Why?"
Moore asks a Congressman about passing the Patriot Bill without reading it.
"We don't read most of the bills we pass," he says, offering a tired smile.
Let freedom reign!Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2004