When professional photographers cover a presidential candidate
or any other public official, they usually leave the event with a
majority of unusable photographs. The speaker may look awkward or
simply be blinking; these natural mistakes make the photographs
unusable because the mainstream press won’t publish photos of
people who aren’t looking their best.
What Michael Moore has done in his new film, “Fahrenheit
9/11,” is to mash several hours of this same kind of
embarrassing archival footage of Bush Administration officials
together to create, depending on your political perspective, either
a new gospel or another liberal blasphemy.
Regardless of politics, the film itself is a disheveled,
unorganized mess. Despite verifications from attorneys that
statements in the film were fact-checked, Moore doesn’t make
his assertions sound convincing. “Fahrenheit 9/11”
rattles loudly through jumbled facts to pseudo-conclusions without
even a semblance of a plot; the eBay musical commercials on TV make
more sense than this movie. The cuts are so fast and jumpy as to be
headache-inducing, and Moore presents an overwhelming barrage of
information which makes the audience yearn for some
With regard to politics, “9/11” is convincing, if a
bit overdone. Moore paints his subjects as demonic and heartless.
He takes a stand for everything that Bush opposes, even painting
Saddam Hussain in a pleasant light and, with the same stroke,
portraying United States ally Saudi Arabia as the next evil
The film contains statistics, but it’s a lot easier for
audiences to digest vague connections than real evidence: Bush must
be a terrorist because the streets of Flint look a bit like the
streets of Baghdad. Saudi Arabians must be evil because they are
wealthy and have invested in US banks –– if they
withdraw this money, bad things could happen!
This sort of faulty, implied logic continues for the rest of the
movie, yet it is hurled at audiences in such an overwhelming manner
that one feels uncomfortable questioning Moore’s ideas. And
yet he finds it much easier to present tearjerking anecdotal
evidence than to clarify these jumps in logic. The second half of
the movie focuses on a formerly-conservative mother from Flint who
loses her son in the Iraqi conflict. Her experiences after his
death deserve the pity of the public — especially when she
actually doubles over with grief in front of the White House
–– but Moore doesn’t use this footage to create
any new connections for the audience.
Yes, the war in Iraq is hell for both sides, but is this really
news? Is it really heroic of Moore to champion this small-town
soldier for his “gift” to the rest of America when he
has made a practice of making fun of small-town Americans? Earlier
in the movie, he points out the sad coincidence that U.S. soldiers
like to listen to “Let the Bodies Hit The Floor” when
they are in battle and lets his elite audience laugh at rural
America’s fear of complex terrorist plots in their backwoods
towns. The resulting effect is a message more muddled than ever,
with no single conclusion in sight.
Gone is the self-effacing humor that used to be a hallmark of
Moore’s films. As a direct result, the film is dour, unless,
of course, you like to laugh at people while they are blinking.
“Fahrenheit 9/11” is many things: loud, flashy and
rightly controversial, but it doesn’t present a clear,
logical argument. Regardless of its cinematic flaws,
“9/11” has now grossed more in its opening weekend than
“Return of the Jedi.” Moore responds,
“We’ll make it up by producing ‘Return of the
Texan to Crawford’ in November.”
If a movie can be somber and emotional, illogical and loud and
still change the course of the election, then perhaps Michael Moore
is on to something.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.