Fahrenheit 9/11

Michael Moore turns Bush-whacker in an impressively incriminating docu-film. Not without fault, but utterly compelling.

Released in 2004, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 06 Jul 2004 by Craig Eastman
Fahrenheit 9/11 image

Oooooh, that Michael Moore. Wherever there's shit to be stirred, a long stick and a large soapbox from which to obtain maximum leverage there he'll be, whipping up a brown, fluffy storm. Last year's Bowling For Columbine was certainly an interesting, if overly melodramatic little affair, tainted as it was by an unfortunate level of staged sentimentality and a subject matter that anyone outside the US probably couldn't give a hoot about. What's that? Spotty American goth schoolies shooting up their classmates with a twelve guage? Where can I buy tickets to the rematch? Such apathy cannot really be applied here though, with Moore tackling the subject of George W. Bush's presidency. Unfortunately for you, me, the world and his dog it's something that affects us all, and Moore certainly takes relish in launching his assault on the most powerful (and perhaps the director himself might suggest most corrupt) man in the world.

Beginning with the farce that was the Presidential Election of 2000, the movie details a frankly horrendous array of indiscretions committed by and on behalf of George "Dubya" Bush Jnr., resulting in his effectively stealing the result from main rival Al Gore. On the strength of evidence presented it's hard to understand why America isn't in anarchy right now, given the utterly illegal nature of most of the claims levelled against the man now standing for re-election, and it's in creating this atmosphere of injustice that Moore excells. Moore detractors will also note that in doing so he has this time taken more of a back seat job in narrating the movie rather than appearing on screen. There remain the odd publicity stunt or two (asking members of Congress to sign their children up for the armed forces seems a crap argument when he doesn't comparatively ask the public to do the same), but this time the volume has been turned down on Michael's antics and he seems more content to focus on unearthing nuggets of injustice, which surely is his job as a documentarian in the first place.

The first hour or so of Fahrenheit 9/11 is barnstorming stuff, leading on from the election fiasco to the ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal household and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. A huge number of interesting 'coincidences' populate this particular section, and the means by which Bush apparently propagates world-affecting policy changes is highlighted in nothing less than a startling and perhaps terrifying manner. Again Moore demonstrates a canny knack for unearthing interesting and pertinent facts (Saudi money accounts for around $280 billion, or 7% of the US stock market, and therefore essentially the nation's economy) and shows great gusto in unleashing a ream of inept interviews and soundbites with the man himself that not so much allow Moore to deconstruct Dubya's credibility as enable us to sit back and watch him painfully achieve the same result himself. Sending young men and women to Afghanistan so they can die face down in the dust? Ah, who cares? Bush addresses the cameras from a golf course, urging peace-loving nations to unite against terrorism, then in the same breath nonchalantly utters "now, watch this drive!". Foot in mouth disease should surely be invented for this man.

Fahrenheit 9/11 image

Unfortunately Moore soon tires of such a soft and easy target and for the second hour or so focusses on the war in Iraq, the sham that was "weapons of mass destruction" (we know where they are; in an American warehouse waiting for Sadam's cheque from back in the the 80's to clear...), and most importantly the drive to recruit young volunteers from the poorest corners of America's forgotten homeland. Potentially the most evocative if not inflamatory half of the movie, Michael scores an own goal by copying and pasting a chunk of narrative ideology from Bowling For Columbine by returning to his beloved home town of Flint, Michigan, and it's here that the rot immediately sets in.

Echoing the crass sentimentality of his last effort's closing reel where Moore arranged to pick on a clearly non-compos mentis Charlton Heston and pathetically left a portrait of a dead child on his doorstep, here the world's most enthusiastic yet biased journalist spends way too long chronicling the emotional despair of an Iraqi war mother who lost her son in battle. Lila Lipscombe is her name, and pandering to Moore's penchant for staging setpiece encounters is her game. Addressing her briefly in her house, Moore returns to Lila, for whom I genuinely harbour all my available sympathy, and twists her grief to his own ends. I have no doubt her anguish is genuine, but I know a rat when i smell one and the painfully obvious moment where Mrs. Lipscombe just happens to blunder across both a homeless war protestor and a subsequently humbled pro-Bush member of the public reeks of the worst kind of shoddy journalism, nay propaganda you're likely to encounter.

For all his self-righteous ranting it's hard not to like Michael Moore. He may rely to a horrendous degree on emotion rather than fact, but there's no denying his fervency in pursuing what he believes to be a noble goal, and here he may just be documenting the greatest crime of our century so far. Where Bowling For Columbine dealt with an essentially localised subject matter, Fahrenheit 9/11 shows us that perhaps the only man with the power to reach us all isn't just a sham President, but a ruthless and grossly inept businessman with access to the world's most powerful bargaining tool; the unquestioning might of the US armed forces. I've kept my political views to as much of a minimum as possible here, not because I feel the need to conceal them, but because this movie has made me re-assess them. And that is why flawed though it may be, Fahrenheit 9/11 is perhaps the most important and powerful film of the year. November's going to be one hell of a month...

Disko has awarded this movie 4 out of 5 Presidential impeachments

Michael Moore
Cast list:
Michael Moore (Himself)
An assortment of corrupt politicians (Themselves)
George W. Bush (Your Worst Nightmare)