Reviewed by Mike Brannon
Rating: 4 Beans
irector Michael Moore hasn't exactly had a stellar track record when it comes to the truth in his "documentaries". Bowling for Columbine had many, many falsehoods, out-of-context splices and interpretations that are hammered home as gospel truth. Moore also conveniently glosses over things and glaring facts that call his conclusions into question.
Another one of Moore's more irritating indulgences is that he tries to make himself out to be the humble crusader for the working man, when in fact he is an arrogant, self-aggrandizing narcissist.
I am not doing this just to bash Moore for its own sake. I just want to illustrate why I went into this movie with a high degree of skepticism. And I wasn't really surprised at what it was: a two hour blamethrowing session.
The movie begins with Moore's tired old hobbyhorse of how Bush stole the election. I've come to accept the fact that, as long as Moore is alive, he'll whine about this forever. The glossing began immediately when the movie indicates that Gore only lost because of the illegal disenfranchisement of black districts (and while I suspect this did happen, the movie fails to note Democrats doing similiar things in this election) and makes Bush out as a criminal-turned president.
Now this isn't a surprise at all. Moore has a very difficult time convincing me to feel any way about Bush because I know his personal hatred for the man. Of course he's going to show him in the worst possible light. But the problem is, Moore can't choose a "light" to stick with! I mean, he shows him as an intelligent, calculating Svengalli at one point, then shows him as a mere puppet at another, and yet at another shows him as a dumb, awkward klutz. The man can't be all three. (Frankly, I'd classify Bush simply as an awkward klutz... but for Moore to do so would shoot apart 90% of his conspiracy theories)
The movie then shows Bush's (admittedly) shady past. Moore hints at a big bombshell by indicating Bush was best buddies with a man named Lt. Bath (who simply was suspended at the same time), and Bath had a link to the Saudis!
The Bushes already had a link to the Saudis. Moore even spends 10 minutes on this, prior to this "startling relevation." And Moore shows this as an alliance of evil set up for evil's sake. He kind of doesn't mention that the Bushes and the Saudis were in the same business (Oil) and THAT is why they knew each other. This big "secret" of Bath's identity just doesn't go anywhere at all. While you wait for him to make some kind of connection, however preposterous, to justify bringing this up, it just never pays off.
There are some segments, while I have no hard proof, sure smack of Moore's extreme slanting and omission of key facts. For instance, there is a long yarn about the government infiltrating a anti-war group (who Moore shows as docile, cookie-munchers, but never actually shows what they talk about or what precisely they do to garner such scrutiny) and an older fellow who was visited by the FBI after criticizing Bush to his friends at a gym. The latter case especially smacks of severe distortion. I really, really doubt any FBI agent is going to interview you for criticizing the president and the war, amongst friends. I suspect Moore may have left out "little details" such as this guy perhaps talking about plans to bomb a government building or assassinate Bush... which is not necessarily true at all, pure speculation.... but it sure makes more sense of the FBI to come a-calling to this aging gym-rat.
Moore moves on to the war in Iraq, of course. While it's no secret at this point that the government used 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq, Moore also tries to show Iraq as some kind of utopia, and even heroically portrays Saddam Hussein as a peace-loving victim of the Evil Americans. In fact, Moore's typical battle cry of white people are evil is in full cry here. Every white person is filthy rich and anxious to exploit any "lesser races" simply because we enjoy evil for its own sake. This racist angle is particularly suprising (and rather hypocritical) for a rich white man.
Then Moore starts with the deployed troops. Here's where I start to really see red.
What really upsets me about this movie is how Moore portrays our troops. He either show them as disillusioned, or as dumb hicks who enjoy lording power over the poor, poor Iraqis. One tank driver talks about the music he plays for his crew as they go into combat... the old dance floor staple, "The Roof is On Fire."
Moore then shows footage of civilian horrors as the track plays. Dead babies, charred mothers, and houses on fire as innocent civilians flee. Never does Moore show the enemy combatants. Not once does he mention the sudden ambushes by insurgents who murder the troops. No... apparently, Moore wants us to think our troops are heartless, bucket-helmed stormtroopers who delight in raining horrible death and destruction upon helpless civilians. Never once does he show them fighting legitimate threats. He then has the monumental audacity to praise their sacrifice at the end of the film, after villianizing them for 99% of it!
The obligatory Moore Stunts were not as prolific in this movie. In fact, there are only two. The first one has Moore borrowing a Ice Cream Truck (for no reason whatsoever does his choose this vehicle) and reading the Patriot Act aloud around Capitol Hill. This is absolutely pointless because we do not see anyone's reaction. The other stunt is a bit more meaningful, trying to get Senators to get their sons and daughters to enlist, if they believe in this war so much. Naturally, there are no takers. It's also pretty stupid to approach it this way... if Moore had requested contact through their offices, instead of accosting them on the street, they probably would have sent some phony rationalization that would make it look even worse on their part. Instead, we have the typical Moore ambush, so it's not really surprising to see the reactions.
There are some scenes that were dead-on. If Moore would have kept with the angle of Bush as a bungling dummy (instead of hopping over to Bush The Criminal Genius whenever it helped his propaganda angle) it would have been a lot more damning on Bush's part. There is a hilarious scene where Bush is accused of fudging on his duties, and he starts to stutter out a lame, weak excuse, like a kid who's on the spot for not doing his homework. The ending media clip of Bush flubbing a tired catchphrase was a direct hit. Bush's lack of productivity, the use of fear to make people easy to control, the poor handling of 9/11, and the quagmire of a war we are currently in, these are all points that are hard to argue, even if you don't approve of Moore's methods. But they are hardly new revelations. In fact, most of this movie is simply a rehash of Moore's book, "Stupid White Men."
For whatever it is worth, Moore has succeeded with this film. It is front page news, it is critically acclaimed, and there are legions of people who swallow every word of his codswallop without entertaining even basic questions or reasoning. It won the Palm D'Or at Cannes (the fact that QUENTIN TARANTINO [who makes fabulous comic book style movies, but is far from what I would call a groundbreaking or seasoned director] was the head judge should tell you something).
But as a "documentary," this film is a horrible failure. It does not show things on even ground at all, and it really is nothing but Moore's ranting and chest-beating about how Bush is the source of all evil. Really nothing you haven't heard from him since the election. It does have snappy construction, and the great musical counterpoints make up for the rambling nature. The movie is entertaining, as long as you see it for what it is. A propaganda piece seen through a very distorted angle to make its own highly debatable conclusions.
But Bush-bashers will love it. You know, if I released a "movie" where I stood at a podium and just said "Bush is a big BUTTHEAD!" over and over, I'D get a 15-minute standing ovation too, if the audience just came to hear me bad mouth someone they didn't like. The old adage proves true, "If you want to make fast friends, let them hear you diss the person they hate."
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