Scott’s Review #1,093
Reviewed December 22, 2020
Reviewing a political documentary about a president considered incompetent pre-Donald Trump is a tough task. Can anyone rival Trump’s incompetence? In the United States circa 2016, the proverbial shit hit the fan as no other controversial figure had ever set foot in the White House. Let’s hope that’s as bad as it gets.
To watch a documentary that ridicules George W. Bush knew what we now know with the widespread notion that we would love Bush back in the office makes Fahrenheit 9/11, directed by liberal filmmaker Michael Monroe, dated and rather superfluous. It’s still a good watch, but it was better in 2004.
But ever the professional, I will soldier on and review this documentary with gusto and try to remember the time it was made and the issue at hand. The United States was a tragic war zone in 2001. I am salivating at the thought of a Moore helmed follow-up documentary about Donald Trump, considered the worst United States president of all time. In a clever play on titles, Moore would release Fahrenheit 11/9 in 2018 and unleash a documentary tirade on the 45th president, but only at halfway through his term.
Released only halfway through Bush’s reign, Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) focuses on the devastating events of 9/11, hence the title, while questioning the how’s and why’s Bush found himself in office. The main point is how he bungled the response to 9/11 and his selfish and inept focus on Afghanistan and Iraq. The documentary is a good piece of work and a history lesson.
To elicit controversy, and it did, Moore bravely and brazenly calls out the reasons why the United States was the target for terrorism. The events leading up to the gruesome day are chronicled, with bombast and humor, sure to provoke debate among viewers not aligned politically.
But, Moore’s documentary is not a debate. It’s a one-sided attack on Bush. Anyone with a firm “The United States is the greatest country in the world” will not like the experience, and Moore knows this, teetering carefully around mockery.
The cover art is brilliant, featuring a sly Michael Moore holding hands with a goofy-looking Bush, a shit-eating grin on his face. This implies that Bush was carried along throughout his term and helped to win the presidency. The title in bold red emergency letters amid the White House background tells you all you need to know about the tone of the documentary. Republicans will despise the work.
Helpful to the documentary is that Moore narrates it, adding a good dose of sarcasm and wit to the myriad of verbal insults he hurls at the former president. If one isn’t familiar with Moore, his hoodie and baseball cap look and garish Michigan accent cement his “regular Joe” persona, though he is intelligent beyond belief.
Moore’s commentary isn’t only a way to smack Bush upside the head, but there is substance here. He angrily points out the interminable amount of time it took Bush to abort storytime on 9/11 and drag his ass to a camera and microphone to address the startled nation.
The point of Fahrenheit 9/11 is to label Bush as a dangerous and flawed president and describe why. The motivation is clear- it’s an attack on Bush pure and simple. But it’s hardly sour grapes or dark and dreary. Moore instills humor and an exposé on the multitude of gaffs Bush made and adds appearances by Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice. Should he be the president? Hell no! This comedy makes the fact that he was easier to absorb.
At just over two hours of running time, the documentary feels slightly long. I got the point of it quickly enough and had my fill around the ninety-minute mark- the ideal length for this genre. The rest feels like overkill and redundant, though I get Moore’s point of hammering home the necessary discussion points.
I’m not sure Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) needs more than one viewing to absorb its point. It’s a well-made documentary obviously slanted to Moore’s political leanings. But, the points made are relevant and thoughtful, and factual. For a tribute to the World Trade Center attacks this is not a good reason to watch. For a proper dissection of why they occurred and where the United States goes from here (in 2004 anyway), the documentary is a solid watch.