There's no question that Michael Moore's films have bias. Moore isn't a director who makes 'objective observer' documentaries, he's a filmmaker who creates personal and often political essays with a very specific and strong point of view. Fahrenheit 9/11 is no exception. The core of the film is the hypothesis that through power, influence and family connections, George W. Bush not only stole the 2000 presidential election, but he took America to war with Iraq for reasons that had much more to do with money and the welfare of wealthy friends than 'national security'.
I'm sure some readers will stop right here. Judge this film based solely on Moore's 'politics', perhaps even brand Moore with all sorts of nasty labels because of this point of view. If that's the case, what they'd be missing out on is a truly phenomenal film. Fahrenheit 9/11 is so much more than a political jab at conservatives (both sides of the aisle take quite a beating here), it's a surprisingly emotional and personal film from an American trying to make sense of one of the most difficult and surreal points in American History. Moore, who is typically so heavy handed with his documentaries, so biting in his satire and often contemptuous of his subjects, brings a level of emotional honesty to this film that brings it to an entirely different level.
No matter what your political point of view, it's hard not to find Fahrenheit 9/11 extremely shocking and unsettling. One of the biggest jaw dropping revelations in the film is the clearly documented, deep connections between the Bush and Bin Laden families. I know, it's hard to believe, but no one's making this stuff up! This connection between the two families runs so deep that while most commercial airlines were grounded after 9/11, Bush ordered that members of the Bin Laden family (along with some other Saudi nationals) be flown out of the country. This happened without investigators having the opportunity to really question them or detain them. Mind blowing. Even more shocking are the film's examinations of the consequences of the Patriot Act, the reality of 'homeland security' and how exactly we went to war with Iraq. It's very difficult to watch Fahrenheit 9/11 without being outraged.
But just when you think you've got Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11 figured out, it changes. The film moves from its connect-the-dots approach to Bush, Bin Laden, Saudi Arabia and big Industry and Iraq into a very touching and personal look at the people who have been affected by all this. Moore spends a good amount of time in his film talking to soldiers fighting in Iraq, showing families who have lost children to the war and putting a real face to the repercussions of the war. There are many scenes in the film which are difficult to watch and Moore pulls no punches graphically showing the horror of war (on all sides). There's no question that Fahrenheit 9/11 should be an R-Rated movie - there's some pretty gruesome and tough stuff here. But the blood and gore doesn't have nearly the impact as the stories from families who have lost children to the war. One of the most touching scenes of the film involves the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who visits the White House to find some sort of closure to her mourning. It's an amazingly powerful scene, and it makes something so sensationalized in the media so very personal.
Unlike many of his previous films, Moore spends a lot more of Fahrenheit 9/11 behind the camera than in front of it. The film is noticeably light on Moore's trademark 'stunts', and the ones in the film seem to be there more to appease Moore's fans and perhaps their expectations for a 'Michael Moore Film' than anything else (both could have easily been removed from the film without much effect). While there are some definite moments of humor and satire, the overall tone of the film is actually somber and emotional. Moore never seems to forget the human element in the film and he ultimately finds that empathy goes a lot further to prove a point than mockery.
Fahrenheit 9/11 will undoubtedly be the center of a great deal of discussion and debate in the weeks ahead and I think that's the point of the film. Moore didn't make a film to get people to vote one way or another, he made a film to awaken Americans to ask questions, not take everything at face value, and to do something, anything other than stand by and ride the war machine to war. It'll be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on the 2004 Presidential election as it's not out of the realm of probabilities that it might have a very real and profound effect on the election. Fahrenheit 9/11 is absolutely one of the most powerfull documentaries I've seen; it's Moore's best yet and one of the best films so far this year. Go see it!