Oh, how I will be eating my words on this one. You see, for the past several months I have been boo-hooing this entire project as nothing but propaganda for this country’s left of center. I think a little background is necessary.
Unlike so many people who wish to keep their political association secret, I will freely dish up the fact that I consider myself a moderate Republican on most issues facing this country. I was a staunch supporter of President Bush when he first took office, and for a good portion of his term. My support has been waning of late, with increasing violence in Iraq, a struggling economy, and an unyielding sense of fear that is gripping the country. And most of all, I think President Bush is crazy enough to initiate a draft if things continue to go downhill in Iraq, which would qualify both my brother and I to serve if necessary.
Knowing this, I still walked into Fahrenheit 9/11 with a sense of skepticism. Michael Moore’s previous film, Bowling For Columbine, had a solid first hour, but then derailed with what came across as a Canada propaganda piece and a blown interview with NRA leader Charlton Heston that went on for what seemed like eternity. Little did I know what I was in for.
Fahrenheit 9/11 attacks George W. Bush and everything about him; his lifestyle, his extensive vacations, his immediate cabinet, and most of all the way he has handled the situation in Iraq. Moore drops so many names and uses so many different clips that it is difficult to keep up at times, but it all comes together in the end. This is the best film he has ever made.
The film kicks off with a rundown of the 2000 election, in which Moore thinks it was stolen by Bush. We then get a look at Bush’s first months in office leading up to 9/11, where he was mostly golfing, fishing, being a smartass to reporters, and accomplishing very little. That Bush would act this way in public not only a few times, but dozens of times is eye-opening in itself.
9/11 itself is shown as simply a black screen with the terrifying audio of what happened on that horrendous day in our history. We then get a look at President Bush on 9/11 while he is at a local elementary school in Sarasota, Florida. Upon hearing the news of the two towers being hit, he simply sits in his chair for what has to be the longest seven minutes of his life. What was he thinking? Moore has several theories that I will exclude from this review.
The rest of the film deals with the Saudi and Bin Laden families and their ties with the Bush family, interviews with soldiers in Iraq, an absolutely gut-wrenching interview with a woman who lost her son in a helicopter crash incident, and why exactly are we over there to begin with?
So why is this Moore’s best film to date? For one, it is his most disciplined. With the exception of a few small scenes, he has stayed away from some of the circus-style antics that he has tried to pull off in his previous films (running down Dick Clark in Roger & Me comes to mind). Instead, he focuses almost exclusively on file footage that cannot be argued with, and he stays off camera for the majority of the film. He presents his side of the argument, and only the most stubborn and arrogant can walk out of this film and not be shaken to the bone, if not just a little bit.
One thing that no one can take away from Moore is his gift for pacing and injecting humor where it needs to be. Again, Fahrenheit 9/11 is his most well-paced film, but definitely not his funniest. That is just fine, as nothing going on over in Iraq is funny. Bush’s flubbed lines, idiotic statements, and overall speech ineptitude, however, is. He blends them effortlessly.
I am not sure who the defined audience for this film is, if there is one. Bush-haters will revel in the way he is exposed in this film, but I have hunch that Moore would be happy to hear that he successfully reached someone who considers himself a Bush supporter and has made him seriously rethink what is going on in this country, and what should be done on election day in November. That would be me.
Studio: Miramax Films
Length: 112 Minutes
Rating: R for some violent and disturbing images, and for language.
Theatrical Release: June 25, 2004
Directed by: Michael Moore
Written by: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore, George W. Bush