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Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Rated R

Starring: Michael Moore, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

Michael Moore stirred up plenty of controversy with Bowling for Columbine in 2002. Critics chided the director for playing fast and loose with the facts and being creative with the editing of certain interviews and situations. Others lauded the film's take on the question of why guns are such a popular tool of violence in the United States.

Love him or hate him, one cannot ignore Michael Moore. It's been even harder to ignore this movie. In one weekend, it became the highest grossing documentary of all-time. That says a lot for the fact that there is an audience for this type of film -- an anti-Bush tirade in an election year -- but does it mean it's any good? Well, it's definitely an effective damnation of the Bush administration and their reasons for going to war in Iraq. However, for me, it was much better as a reminder that those that defend our freedom are usually the ones who benefit the least from what the country has to offer.

Fahrenheit 9/11 opens with a revisiting of the 2000 election and the somewhat convoluted circumstances by which George W. Bush became the 42nd President of the United States. We then follow Bush through the relatively uneventful time between January 20, 2001 to September 11, 2001 and the attack on the U.S. by terrorists. Moore then concentrates on Bush's initial reaction to the attack -- spending time reading "My Pet Goat" to a classroom full of schoolchildren for several minutes before doing anything -- before beginning to tie Bush to Saudi Arabian financial interests as well as making connections between the Bush and Bin Laden families. Finally, we get to the meat of the film: the reasoning behind the invasion of Iraq in the name of the "war on terror."

While some critics might want to take on Moore's allegations one-by-one and dispute or defend them, I was much more interested in the film's look at what Americans don't normally see on the news during reports of the events in Iraq. By allowing audiences to see -- for what I can only assume is the first time for most viewers -- the bloodshed, pain and death associated with the conflict in Iraq as felt by both the civilians and the soldiers, the debate over the rest of the film's content is pointless. Moore, however, sharpens his focus by illustrating that in poor areas of the United States, like his hometown of Flint, Michigan, joining the armed forces is usually the only ticket out of poverty. As corporations salivate over the amount of money they're going to make in the rebuilt Iraq, the poor youth of the nation will end up risking their lives for pathetically low wages so someone else can get rich.

While not as entertaining as Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 is worth seeing if only for the information it provides about what we're not seeing from the news media regarding the war in Iraq. If you're worried that Moore doesn't play honest, just remember that, in politics, no one is honest. You have to make up your own mind. You can't have an opinion if you don't see the movie.

Trivia: After its official showing at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival the movie was given what has been called "the longest standing ovation in the history of the festival". Although the exact length of the applause is a matter of debate, journalists at the screening have reported it being in the area of 15 to 25 minutes. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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