(director/writer/producer: Michael Moore; cinematographer: Michael Desjarlais; editors: Kurt Engfehr/Christopher Seward/T. Woody Richman; music: Jeff Gibbs; Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jim Czarnecki/Kathleen Glynn; Lions Gate Films; 2004)

“My only hope is that Moore’s stated aim for the film to help defeat Bush in November is fulfilled.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michael Moore’s (“Bowling for Columbine”) documentary is the Palme D’Or winner at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It is a hard-hitting and uncompromising attack on the George W. Bush administration’s international and domestic policies that have been implemented since the terrorist attacks of 9-11. Besides being informative and surprisingly accurate, the documentary is highly entertaining and passionately covers the provocateur director’s partisan beliefs. I might add the director’s huge ego is also largely kept in check, as he limits his onscreen time more than he has in his other films–thereby the film remains more focused on the subject matter. The brilliant result is muckraking as scathing social satire, exposing Bush as not only an incompetent but someone willing to use his power to give the “haves” even more. If that weren’t bad enough, it shows Bush quite willing to fight the wrong war and have the war fought by the underprivileged class while the “have-more” class aims to get even richer from the war without their children enlisting.

Moore exposes a litany of Bush administration lies, as he points out how the administration representatives — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell, Ashcroft and Rice — manipulated America’s post-9-11 distress and made the public so fearful that Bush was easily able to incorporate his own agenda so that his oil industry bedfellows greatly profited from his “war on terrorism.” Moore offers a more earthy and humanistic way of looking at the Iraqi War than the media, as he takes full aim at Bush and his advisers as liars and treacherous characters not to be trusted. Moore also chides the Democrats for not speaking up to stop this war for oil. This is something even the liberal media didn’t do that good of a job in their coverage, allowing Bush to get away with taking this country into an unnecessary war without challenging his rationale.

Moore opens the film by pointing out how Bush stole the 2000 election, he then exposes the Bush family’s business links to the enormously wealthy and powerful House of Saud – including the bin Ladens. The heart of the film cuts holes in the administration’s reasons for invading Iraq and for fighting an ineffective war in Afghanistan, and mocks Bush’s “war on terrorism” as a sham. Moore’s undercover camera team then follows a US military unit on a Christmas Eve house raid in Iraq, and further shows the horrors of war in the form of civilian causalities and how everyone involved becomes dehumanized. The camera then shows in a war zone hospital that there are many American military amputees, pointing out how their plight goes mostly unreported. Meanwhile Moore in the States explores the overwhelming grief of a Flint mother who lost a son in the conflict–the most emotionally moving scenes in the film, as this conservative patriotic working-class white woman married to a black man speaks as the voice of the people against the war after initially supporting the war. Lastly, not able to resist some grandstanding, Moore in an amusing skit on the streets near Capitol Hill, corners various Congressmen hoping to get them to enlist their children to fight in Iraq for a war they overwhelmingly voted for but where only one of them has a son in the war.

The documentary lives up to its hype as a visceral and emotional film meant to please those who are against Bush and upset those right-wingers who support the President. My only hope is that Moore’s stated aim for the film to help defeat Bush in November is fulfilled. I find this President so arrogant and repulsive, probably the most unfit one we ever had, that it was refreshing to see Moore take him apart in such a sarcastic and lowbrow funny way (the kind of cheap humor that seems the best way to goof on this cowboy President). I’m sure the film could be faulted for some of its filmmaking techniques, but that would only be nitpicking. The film might not be a masterpiece, but it is one that should be seen by a wide audience in this election year as it becomes more than a film experience because it could play a part in changing history. “Fahrenheit 9/11” builds up such a solid case against Bush that I believe one could only vote for him by turning a blind eye to his reckless policies and his blemished deeds.

REVIEWED ON 6/28/2004 GRADE: A  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/