It's no secret Michael Moore wants to see President George W. Bush removed from the Oval Office, and Fahrenheit 9/11, which takes a critical look at the war in Iraq and aims to link Bush to prominent Saudi families, is his weapon of choice. Although Moore's inflammatory documentary doesn't necessarily produce a smoking gun, it is the filmmaker's most powerful and affecting film yet, mixing humor and emotion to entertain while getting his message across.
The Bush camp, with a little help from the ''Soo-preme'' Court, stole the 2000 presidential elections, at least according to Moore. The documentarian backs up this accusation with some pretty persuasive data in a bizarre game of connect-the-dots meets six degrees of separation, starting at the political desk of the Fox News Channel, run by Bush's first cousin, John Ellis, who made the decision to report Bush had won Florida--a call that did not come from the news media polling group Voter News Service. After pointing out that Bush was on vacation 42 percent of the time during his first eight months in office, Moore introduces some never-before-seen footage of the President visiting a Florida classroom on the morning of September 11, 2001, where after being informed the nation was under attack, he continued to read My Pet Goat for seven minutes. The film openly accuses Bush of ignoring terrorism warnings prior to the events of 9/11 and using the American public's fear of more terrorist attacks to secure support for the war in Iraq. But what possible motive could Bush have for pinning the tail on Saddam Hussein and a country that at that point had never attacked or threatened to attack the United States? The film suggests it was to protect Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden family, who Moore claims once invested millions in Dubya's flailing Texan companies in the late 1980s in order gain access to his father, then U.S. president. Without missing a beat, Moore briefly touches on the war on terror in Afghanistan and Bush's promise to the nation to ''smoke'' Osama bin Laden out of his hole, but it is his Iraq portion of the film that is perhaps the meatiest, with its insightful interviews with U.S. soldiers and footage of suffering civilians usually relegated to the Al-Jazeera network.
''Governor Bush, it's Michael Moore,'' the filmmaker yells out to then Texas Gov. George Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign race. ''Behave yourself, will you? Go find real work,'' Bush replies to the Flint, Mich., native. Work hasn't been an issue for Moore since 1989 with the release of his hit documentary Roger & Me, which examines how factory closings in Flint lead to poverty and unemployment. Moore revisits Flint again in Fahrenheit, this time to speak to the young men and women who say enrolling in the army is the only alternative to joblessness. Moore also speaks with Lila Lipscomb, a woman who encouraged her two children to join the army for the benefits, mostly education. But unlike his last documentary, Bowling for Columbine, Moore is not so much in the foreground here as he is an observer. With the exception of going to Washington to try to persuade congressmen to send their children to Iraq, Moore doesn't badger anyone to make his points but lets the interviews, with both optimistic and disenchanted U.S. soldiers in Iraq as well as the brokenhearted parents of American servicemen, speak for themselves.
With Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore is receiving familiar criticism that he is accused of using selective editing to tinker with chronology. After all, anything can look conspiratorial and even silly when pieced together--sometimes out of context. Moore, however, has challenged anyone to disprove the facts he presents in the film. While Moore's technique of connecting the dots may undercut his message, it certainly doesn't hurt the film's artful storytelling. And if Moore's aim is to conjure up every human emotion there is, he succeeds at that, too. Some of the most haunting scenes in the film are the ones depicting the 9/11 attack, which Moore achieves with a black screen and unsettling audio of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, cut with snippets of people looking up in horror. Moore cleverly juxtaposes this chilling montage with the never-seen-before footage of Bush reading aloud from My Pet Goat (apparently, some teachers in the classroom had camcordered the event but were never asked about the footage until now). And when Lipscomb falls to pieces when her son is killed in Iraq in the course of filming the documentary, you fight back that lump in your throat. But when Moore introduces the section on the war on terror in Afghanistan, he turns to humor, using the opening of the TV series Bonanza and superimposing the images of Bush and other top administrators in the actor's places, complete with Stetsons. Moore also uses the GoGo's tune ''Vacation'' as a backdrop to clips of Bush playing golf or pulling weeds at his Texas ranch.
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 will have moviegoers walking out of the theater fuming. Whether it's at President George W. Bush or the filmmaker depends on which side of the fence you're on.