Fahrenheit 9/11

A powerful, persuasive commentary on the long-standing ties between the Bush family and the Saudi Bin Ladins and, more importantly, on the Bush Administration’s extravagant hoodwinking of America which, ultimately, points us to the imbroglio in Iraq. The sentimentalism and the clownish muckraking–both trademark Michael Moore–are certainly on display here in Fahrenheit 9/11, but Moore isn’t so fast-and-loose with them this time. He creates a true and sober picture of the government-military nexus that feeds on America’s poor as it willfully wages a war outrageously suspect in its motives. Moore powerfully draws attention to the toll that Bush’s war has taken on Iraqi innocents, on American soldiers and the grieving families of those soldiers who died fighting for an unjust cause.

This is provocative filmmaking, less P.T. Barnum-ish in its glib showmanship than Moore’s previous Bowling for Colombine and absolutely riveting in its intellectual and emotional grasp of the subject. At times, Moore tries too hard to skewer Bush, but when Moore focuses on the anguish of Lila Lipscombe, he hits gold. Lipscombe makes for a phenomenal heroine, a mother of a lost son, starved for answers from the government as to why, truthfully, her son died. She is a brave, genuinely good-hearted, honest woman who redeems modern America’s worst qualities.

All in all, this is Moore’s best film to date. Fahrenheit is, by turns, entertaining, incisive, infuriating, heartbreaking and (this being Moore) slickly populist. On the latter point, I argue that only this kind of sentimental, heartstring-tugging sort of polemic has any hope of politicizing today’s mush-headed, SUV-obsessed America. (How many, after all, saw the more even-tempered Manufacturing Consent from 1992 in which Noam Chomsky bemoans the American media for being just the profit-hungry whore and handmaiden to the government as the latter aimed to cover up for its breech of ethics in Southeast Asia?) And Errol Morris’ more muted poetic style isn’t going to rile up the mall kids (though his Fog of War is, I think, maybe a greater achievement, aesthetically speaking anyway, than Fahrenheit). So, maybe Michael Moore’s brand of pseudo-documentary filmmaking is the perfect antidote for an age and culture that feel so morally out-of-whack, so materially driven and politically jaded. Moore is the Cecil B. DeMille of modern-day, leftwing documentarians, and a damn shrewd one at that.

Grade: A-

Directed by: Michael Moore
Written by: Michael Moore

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