FAHRENHEIT 9/11

4 Stars
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 116 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

You’ve heard of this one, right? Most likely you have, so I’ll try to keep it short. And I’ll acknowledge up front that Michael Moore is a loudmouthed, grandstanding, showboating, obnoxious propagandist. Charitably, he can be characterized as almost a political Carl Sagan figure, a popularizer of little-known facts others have done the dirty work of digging up (among others, authors and journalists like Joe Conason, Greg Palast, Craig Unger and the late J.H. Hatfield).

But as all must admit, Moore is no more or less obnoxious than the frothing maniacs who have owned talk radio for years, who sell just as many if not more books, and who now have their very own cable network – the most popular in America, it should be noted. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and the rest…you definitely know who you are. Did the supposedly liberal media raise holy hell over what happened in Florida in November 2000? Did they come out strongly against Bush’s war in Iraq last year? Did they pose tough questions about the recent deification of Ronald Reagan? No, no and no. (Let’s also not forget that conservatives control all three branches of government and the Supreme Court as well.) So maybe the entire right wing should just shut the fuck up, and accept that Michael Moore is going to have his say now.

A great number of people worldwide are going to go along for the ride. “Fahrenheit 9/11” is everything you’ve heard: sad and funny, revealing and compelling, entertaining, devastating. For those who believe our country has been in deep trouble since the 2000 (S)election, the film will be – in the words of Neil Young, whose “Rockin’ in the Free World” plays over the end credits – a “milepost on the road back to America.” For everyone else, well…just keep watching Fox News. You won’t see any of the horrific wartime carnage on Fox that you see in Moore’s film, that’s for sure – you won’t see that on any network here, in fact. But what you’ll witness here is just a taste of how the rest of the world is seeing Bush’s war. Incidentally, you’ll also see many U.S. soldiers questioning the war itself, one of whom says he’d like to ask for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation.

As always, Moore’s filmmaking technique is as subtle as Oliver Stone and/or a sledgehammer to the teeth. Given that this is Moore’s first film since the huge success of Bowling for Columbine and his infamous Oscar acceptance speech, it’s wise that he limits his presence onscreen (though his snarky narration is ever-present). This is the heaviest subject matter Moore has ever dealt with – subject matter can hardly get any heavier – but his use of goofy ‘50s-style “happy homemaker” music and broadly comic visual cues continues unabated. The thing is, when you’re dealing with characters as revoltingly power-mad as Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Paul Wolfowitz, how else to present them? Aren’t they all a bit of a joke at this point anyway?

As far as Moore and like-minded viewers are concerned, we’re well past the kid-gloves stage with the Bush administration, and the burden is now on them to explain what we’re doing in Iraq, how we got there in the first place, how the hell we’re going to get out. Some of us were against the action in the first place and some of us supported it, but at this point every sentient American has questions that need to be answered – about the Carlyle Group, about Enron, about Halliburton, about the specifics of America’s (and the Bush family’s) relationship with Saudi Arabia, about why we’re in Iraq instead of Afghanistan, about why Osama bin Laden is still at large. As Congressman Jim McDermott says in the film, we are now living in “an era of endless threat” – so who is it, really, that got us here?

Answers are not exactly forthcoming, and that’s where people like Moore come in, to raise a little hell and wake people up. If it takes propaganda to fight propaganda, well, that’s the state in which we find ourselves. This is no time for subtlety; both left and right seem to be well in agreement on that point. Maybe the reason right-wingers detest Moore is that he – an American and a patriot – competes so effectively on the loud, debased, brutally simplistic level of Fox News. The right is forever accusing Moore of playing fast and loose with facts (as if the Rush Limbaughs and Jerry Falwells of the world would never dream of such a thing!), and in the next few months we’ll all hear endless nitpicking from the right with this or that point in “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Whatever, have at it, hide every last picture of American soldiers’ coffins, keep whistling right past the graveyard. Chop down every tree until no there’s no forest left not to see.

The larger truths in this film ring out loud and clear, like the very trumpets of the angels. Go see it, or do your best to avoid it. But rest assured – there will be no ignoring the ever-growing movement that it represents.

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Posted on June 24, 2004 in Reviews by
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