Michael Moore sure doesn’t like Democrats.
Wait a minute. Isn’t Fahrenheit 9/11 the George W. Bush-bashing documentary whose mission it is to derail the President of the United States’ bid for re-election and help John Kerry win?
Well, that’s half right. Only the outer reaches of the farthest right would peg this film as any sort of Democratic ad.
Moore’s backhanded compliment to the Democrats is that complacency makes them lesser fools than Bush’s Republican administration. And if Kerry were in the same situation, embroiled in questionable foreign policy tied to, say, Saudi ketchup supremacy, Moore would have made the exact same movie.
Easily his finest work yet, Fahrenheit 9/11 is Moore at his most serious, and his passion shows. The film is still funny in the Moore tradition of scathingly playful irony. But he’s trimmed back the cutesy self-insertion bits, not showing up for at least a half-hour.
And though he still boasts rambunctious music cues (Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” and Joey Scarbury’s “Greatest American Hero” become the film’s brightest slams), Moore’s humor is less cartoonish clowning and more a well-needed release of the tension the film generates.
It would be convenient to slap the film as a liberal fantasy; what Moore has to say comes off neither as the words of a blowhard with archival access nor a partisan wag. What he wants is the demand we, regardless of affiliation, should make of politicians — the truth, namely here the concrete proof of the Bush administration’s reason for entering into war with Iraq.
There is some microwaving going on here, but it feels fresh. Moore touches on subjects similar to Bowling for Columbine (namely America’s conditioning to fear since Sept. 11), and those covered before in books by Craig Unger (interviewed here) and Steven Brill regarding Bush’s ties to the bin Laden family and America’s porous borders.
Ultimately, and without ruining Moore’s wholly eloquent thesis, his originality comes from a touching tribute to patriotism and duty, showcasing a large number of soldier talking heads speaking their minds. For some, it may be a surprise to hear he’s with the troops. It’s no shocker that he dislikes the commander-in-chief.
The film opens with the 2000 election and a lack-of-mandate slant before tackling Sept. 11. Instead of another gratuitous helping of the visuals we’ve seen time and again, Moore offers a black screen accompanied by sound effects that jolt our brain back into the anxiety and fear of that day.
It’s the launching point for unraveling a web of greased palms and back-dealings that, as shown, is a thorough and damning critique of the Bush administration.
Tied in to Moore’s push for the revelation of truth, his meticulous work is a direct challenge to Bush. If the claims are false, he seems to say, shoot down the message and the messenger through evidentiary proof. And in the sober tone of his voice-over, it feels as though Moore holds out a shred of hope Bush will someday reveal the truth.
All in all, is it Bush-bashing? Yes. Would Moore be happier without Bush in the White House? Obviously. But in the final act, through the moving story of Lila Lipscomb, who lost a son in Iraq, Moore shows how personal faith can only take a woman so far without proof that a son’s sacrifice was righteous.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is incendiary, but it’s something that everyone with an interest in politics should see and debate. Ultimately, the talking point would be a notion I think all of us would want to believe — any American fight should be one that goes unexploited in protecting freedom.