- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) movie review: Michael Moore delivers a sensational – and at times sensationalized – exposé of the U.S.-engendered Iraq War, the hawkish George W. Bush administration, and the cravenly anti-democratic American media.
Fahrenheit 9/11 movie review: Michael Moore’s blockbuster incinerates the W. Bush White House + its U.S. media enablers
While accepting the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award for Bowling for Columbine at the March 2003 Academy Awards ceremony, filmmaker Michael Moore seized the opportunity to lambaste U.S. President George W. Bush for engendering the Iraq War, then in its early stages. Loudly booed by some in attendance, Moore later decided he was gonna show ’em who was right. And show ’em he does by way of the blockbuster documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
In this sensational, Palme d’Or-winning exposé, the ever-contentious filmmaker relies on interviews, news articles, and footage edited out of newscasts to create a relentless indictment of the Bush administration, its greedy corporate backers, and the craven (corporate-owned and -controlled) American media.
Easily the most commercially successful documentary ever made – $115.5 million in the domestic market alone – Fahrenheit 9/11 begins with a dissection of the 2000 U.S. presidential election, in which Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote via the ballot box, but Republican George W. Bush won the White House via his brother’s Florida and his father’s Supreme Court pals.
From there, Moore uses the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., to depict the long-standing close ties between the Bush clan and Saudi Arabia’s Royal House of Saud and to illustrate W.’s use of the terrorist threat as a weapon of dissent destruction.
Complicit U.S. media
Among other topics discussed in Fahrenheit 9/11 are the lies and distortions used to justify waging war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the plight of an American mother whose son dies in the fighting, the thoughts of American soldiers stationed in Iraq, and the bloody, calamitous destruction caused by the American-led bombing of that country.
Inevitably – and righteously so – Michael Moore also aims his camera at greedy corporations and at the inept, craven, dishonest American media. The former group is denounced for its eagerness to profit from the ravages of the Iraq War, while the latter is thrashed for its cowardice — e.g., burying stories deemed too controversial — and for its docile acquiescence to the White House political agenda.
Moore’s attacks are particularly effective when he puts his caustic humor to good use. Besides main target George Bush, he ridicules the American political system, the American electoral system, the American media, big corporations (especially oil-linked Halliburton), several U.S. allies in the Iraq invasion, and American pop singer Britney Spears.
Unnecessary conspiracy theories
Now, even though much of what we see in those Fahrenheit 9/11 sequences is, in fact, funny, informative, disturbing, and thought-provoking, Moore also sees fit to include unnecessary — and unproven — conspiracy theories, e.g., the War in Afghanistan as a convenient means for Unocal to build a pipeline through that country.
That’s an unfortunate decision as it undermines the overall credibility of his film. After all, even though Unocal has been involved in shady deals in Central Asia, nine years after the beginning of the War in Afghanistan there’s still no Unocal pipeline in that volatile country.
The filmmaker also loses ground when he attempts to personalize the Iraq War. Although several private moments are indeed poignant, Michael Moore, The Interviewer, comes across as both patronizing and exploitative.
What about pro-war Average Joes & Janes?
Additionally, for someone who has been so vociferously critical of the cowardice of both the Bush administration and the U.S. media, Moore lacks the courage to blame American military personnel for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Instead, he shifts the full responsibility for the heinous acts to George W. Bush.
Compounding matters, Moore points his accusing camera at countless targets, but refrains from ever directing it at the tens of millions of Americans who have thoughtlessly adhered to the dictates of the White House.
Instead, the “I’m a Man of the People Just Like You” documentarian opts to take the stand that poor little We the People have been duped by the big bad Elite.
Yet, despite its not inconsiderable flaws, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a landmark motion picture.
Like the great classical tragedies (or your average soap opera), it deals with power, greed, dishonesty, love, loss, corruption, ignorance, good, evil — with the difference that the characters are real-life individuals.
To boot, the documentary introduces a new movie monster, more frightening than Alien, Predator, or even The Thing. No, not George W. Bush, who comes across more like Larry, Moe, or Shemp than Freddy Krueger.
Fahrenheit 9/11’s Frankenstein is Britney Spears, whose blind follow-the-leader mentality is representative of a large section of the human population. And that makes her – and the billions of people she mirrors – scarier than any other movie monster of past and present.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Direction & Screenplay: Michael Moore.
Narrator: Michael Moore.
“Fahrenheit 9/11 Movie (2004) Review” endnotes
Britney Spears Fahrenheit 9/11 quote via CNN.
Total Film magazine readers disagree with the assessment above regarding George W. Bush’s creepy factor.
Michael Moore and Britney Spears Fahrenheit 9/11 movie images: Lionsgate | IFC Films.
“Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004): Michael Moore Scorches Bush Administration” last updated in September 2021.