Fahrenheit 9-11 (15)

Written and Directed by Michael Moore
Screening at FACT and UGC from 9th July 2004

Reviewed by Adam Ford

It’s fair to say Michael Moore's long-awaited one-man hatchet job on George W Bush has gained a huge amount of publicity prior to its UK release. In May it won the prestigious Palme d'Or for Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival, and on its first weekend it made nearly $25,000,000 in the US, making it the highest grossing documentary ever made. So to say that Moore's British fans have been excited is a slight understatement. Amazingly, this film delivers everything they could have hoped for.

Moore's strategy has always been to make politics entertaining and accessible, to make tough subjects fun without undermining the seriousness of the issues. In 2002's Bowling For Columbine, he did this to great effect, getting up to lots of high jinks and cracking jokes whilst maintaining respect for those who lost their lives in the 1999 high school shootings. Though there is the odd humorous moment in Fahrenheit, the sheer scale of the atrocities represented forced Moore to tone down his act, and the result is a far more sober and powerful piece of filmmaking. To a large extent Moore gets out of the way, giving the politicians enough rope to hang themselves whilst sensitively portraying bereaved US and Iraqi families.

In satirizing targets across the American political landscape Bowling For Columbine allowed some to squirm off the hook, but Fahrenheit is far more focussed, relentlessly pummelling Bush’s regime with revelation after revelation. Beginning with its controversial seizure of power, Fahrenheit takes in the shady behind the scenes dealing prior to September 11th, before dissecting the draconian PATRIOT Act and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

By turns a tragi-comedy, gangster flick and real life horror movie, this is far more engaging than the average documentary. Unfortunately, two hours of such intense emotion is too much for the viewer to take in, and far fewer eyes would have glazed over if it were three quarters of its length.

"Was it all just a dream?" Moore asks incredulously, and indeed if it were fiction you wouldn't believe it. Many on the American right still refuse to believe it, but their hysterical rants have merely fuelled Michael Moore's publicity machine. The birth of our new millennium has been a horrific affair, and Fahrenheit 9-11 is its captivating portrayal. As such, it is must see cinema for anyone who longs for a brighter future.