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Hamburg Cell, The
When I found out I was going to be reviewing The Hamburg Cell I grew a little concerned. Not because I didn't want to review the title, but it was more of a fear of what I would say in a review. 9/11 was a tragedy and living in America I was afraid that most of my comments may have been a bit too biased for me to share with the readers. What could I possibly say that hasn't already been said before?
Thankfully, The Hamburg Cell isn't going to trip me up and make me throw in my two cents. I was expecting this film which follows the events of the terrorists that lead up to 9/11, to be extremely biased against the terrorists. That's fine considering the fact that terrorism to me is just plain awful and inexcusable. Again, my comments on that are not necessary here. My point is that for a feature to really engage me right now on a topic such as 9/11, it needs to be a dramatization so it's not a dry documentary. It also needs to show what happened without really putting the devil lights on any side. Very easily could a filmmaker show some of the information that America had known prior to 9/11 such as Michael Moore has done. Very easily could a filmmaker make the terrorists involved look like evil little leprechauns with bombs strapped to their back with construction tape.
These views do not come into play here in this film. There do not appear to be any signs of skewed vision here. We follow Ziad Jarrah mainly throughout the feature. He's taking classes and preparing for his future, and he's even met a girl that he's falling in love with. Unfortunately he hasn't really made any friends. He seems pretty tired of just 'being' and decides to get involved with something important, an activity that would mean something. He starts to attend a mosque and starts to become very religious and he works hard at becoming a good Muslim. Eventually all of his new brothers around him are heading in a different direction than he originally thought they would. They've become completely obsessed with the new world and trying to bring it down. Conspiracy begins and Ziad is confused.
Ziad seems to want to have a family and have his wife. At the same time he wants to be a good brother and gain their trust. Does he want to be a part of what could be a chance at making history? He's not so sure. He would have to hurt the ones he loves in order to devote himself to the cause, which is to bring down the modern world, starting with America.
The Hamburg Cell shows us the sick obsessive behavior behind getting something like this to happen, and it even shows us something that's very important that some people obviously need to know. Not all Muslims are terrorists. This is obvious but there are people out there who can't be bothered with truth. This film shows both sides of the struggle between Muslims, those who think these kinds of acts solve problem and those who think its just idiocy. On the flip side of the coin, we also get to see all the different occasions this could have been stopped, not just by family, but by the American government as well.
The acting here was all superb. Everybody played their role believably and didn't go over the top in order to make their character look a certain way for the viewers at home. That was important as this feature is meant to inform and to show us the facts in a dramatized way. The Hamburg Cell succeeds on both accounts.
This was presented in a 16:9 anamorphic transfer. The image was very clean and there isn't much to complain about as far as grain goes. There's some very very minor edge enhancement I was able to see on very few occasions. The colors and skin tones were natural, but the black level could have been cleaned up a bit. At times black wasn't so, yet at others it looked great.
We have 2.0 stereo here for this release only. It sounds pretty decent between the two channels though. There aren't many times were surround is really needed for a dramatized documentary as it's mostly dialogue.
There's nothing here folks. There are some production notes, and the scene index. It's quite lame.
This feature based on some personal interviews, unpublished correspondence, and the official 9/11 Commission Report, delivers the story of the events that lead up to 9/11 superbly without showing favoritism towards one side or another. Obviously the terrorists are the villains here but the filmmaker didn't turn them into villains with how he shot the film. If you're looking for a title that's shocking and gripping about 9/11 without seeing the 'Hollywood' approach that's over dramatized, then The Hamburg Cell will fill your order nicely, especially if you're not looking for any filmmaker to tell you how to feel. I would recommend this title. It's just too bad that there's really nothing in the way of extras here with all the research that was apparently done to bring us this story.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!