"Fahrenheit 9/11" is an account of just exactly how illegitimate President Bush's administration is, told from Moore's point of view. His perspective is not only liberal, but all-encompassing liberal. From Bush's alleged cheating in Election 2000 and his proclivity toward golf and extended vacations, to his dumbfounded response (or lack thereof) to the news of a hijacked plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers (the President continued to read "My Pet Goat" to a roomful of elementary-school kids) and his motives for the Iraq War - Moore manages to represent the spectrum of the Bush-opposed, those with small and serious concerns alike. If Moore thinks he is enlightening Americans, he should realize that his attempt is a blatantly biased effort meant to appeal only to those who already dislike Bush. If he were trying to be fair, he could have found at least one good thing to say about Mr. Bush. Maybe even two.
The film begins with some Indecision 2000 Florida vote-count accusations (the man's brother is the governor, what could be more devious?), but for the most part it kicks off the way a stand-up comedian would warm up a crowd, with some gentle mockery no worse than Jay Leno territory. The opening credits are interspersed with footage of Bush, Rice and Powell receiving a grooming before a national broadcast. An uproarious laugh-track resounds each time the President shifts his eyes in a peculiar manner. No wait, that wasn't a laugh-track, it was the audience at the liberal-packed theater.
Moore goes on to point out the intricate business ties between the Bushes and the Bin Laden family, which he claims was what led the administration to allow Bin Ladens to be able to fly out of the United States two days after 9/11, while everyone else was grounded - and also why the government didn't go after Saudi Arabia even though 15 of the hijackers were Saudis. After all, they have almost a trillion dollars invested in the U.S. economy.
The more the film progresses, the more it screams, "Conspiracy theory!" There is some evidence Moore cites which could be solid, but it's hard to distinguish those pieces in a river of what seems like out-of-context testimony. However, the footage of Moore meandering around D.C. asking Congressmen to consider enlisting their kids in the Army proves to be at the root of the question war-opposed Americans demand to know, "Are the people in power sending our kids into a war they wouldn't send their own kids into?" The look of implausibility ("Are you kidding? Join the Army?") on our lawmakers' faces is a discouraging reply. Most just ignore the question and scurry away as quickly as their well-polished shoes can carry them.
The audience still laughs at this point, but the laughter dies down when recent footage from Baghdad appears. The images of blood-covered Iraqi children dead from an air strike and the burnt corpses of American soldiers will stay in one's mind long after the rest of the film is forgotten. The scene of a woman from Flint, Michigan who lost her son shedding angry tears in front of the White House, and the scene of a woman from Baghdad screaming to Allah after her uncle had been killed by a bomb, are hauntingly similar. Both serve as sharp reminders of the real-life matter going on. It's a far cry from an earlier shot of Moore borrowing an ice-cream truck to broadcast the full text of the Patriot Act in front of the Capitol. One wonders whether the two scenes should be in the same film.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is more than fairly entertaining, but a guilty entertainment it is or at least should be. It's one thing to laugh at a public figure's malapropisms, it's another to watch a crying mother read her son's last letter. A good movie can have both comedy and tragedy, but to lump both together in a documentary that hits so close to home is insensitive at best.
Moore brings up some relevant criticisms but in the end, seeks attention more than credibility. His film is sheer entertainment at the expense of the Bush administration as much as it is an investigative and emotional case against it. It is excellently crafted on most movie-making standards, but politically speaking, one should realize it is the point of view of one leftist. Many of the points made are valid and resonate. Some of the evidence may be too. However, while Moore asserts that the government and press don't reveal every side of the story, his own camera provides only a narrow line of sight as well.
This movie is rated R.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.