Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Fahrenheit 9/11

MPAA Rating: R for some violent and disturbing images, and for language

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Political Documentary
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Featuring: Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb
Director: Michael Moore
Producer: Michael Moore, Kathleen Glynn, Jim Czarnecki
Distributor: Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Copyright, Lions Gate Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Lions Gate Films

“Controversy… What controversy?”

Michael Moore’s latest documentary “Fahrenheit 9-11” and winner of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival is a determined attack on the current Bush administration. It argues it was this administration and, specifically, President George W. Bush’s fault regarding the attacks of September 11th, and claims there is nothing but greed motivating the war in Iraq. Using satire and a strong sardonic tone, it is a focused endeavor to scorn this nation’s political leaders.

The film begins by going back to the Presidential election of 2000 between George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. This introduction is merely a set-up and reinstates one belief that the election was bogus. For Moore, it is a matter of fact that Al Gore was the real winner of this election, and therefore he believes that Bush’s current time in office began on faulty terms.

The second part of the introduction attempts to establish that President Bush acted completely irresponsibly prior to the September 11th attacks. With cheery cartoon music added, Moore states that President Bush spent forty-two percent of his time on vacation in August 2001. Then on September 10th, he went peacefully to sleep in Florida.

Bookending the body of the film is footage of President Bush, Dick Cheney, Collin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and others prepping for televised interviews. Perhaps unbeknownst to them, the cameras were running while they put on make-up, combed their hair, smiled at those behind the camera, put in their earpieces, and recited to themselves their opening remarks. Near the end of the film, there is a clever reprise of these men after their television spots, taking out their earpieces and walking away. The ominous music used in both places makes the effect all very disenchanting.

Going into the body of his argument, Moore handles the events of September 11th quite respectfully. Understanding that the world has already seen the footage of the attacks on the World Trade Center over and over, he refrains from showing us that footage again. Instead, we stare at a pure black screen while we listen to the sounds of the attacks. We hear the first plane hit, and then hear the second plane hit while people scream and cry in horror. Since we already know the horror, we play out the events in our mind and emotions. After the black screen, we only see the people’s faces as they stare up at the buildings, followed by other poetic, slow motion images of dust and paper floating after the collapses. The most sublime was a shot of two people sitting in front of a park praying.

The film is correctly rated “R.” The images of violence of the war are ones no one wants to see. The first image of the fighting in Iraq is of a charred body of a baby that a man throws into the back of a truck with several other dead bodies. Aside from the war footage, one clip shows (from a long distance) a public beheading performed in Saudi Arabia. There is footage of explosions, wounded soldiers in hospitals, and one moment where American soldiers break into an Iraqi home searching for a suspect, while the people who live there are completely frightened. The bodies of American soldiers are also shown being publicly hung and beaten.

There a couple moments of foul language, with one happening in a song while the U.S. drops bombs. The song says, “We don’t need no water, let the mother f***** burn!!!” and is repeated a few times.

The most developed storyline in the film is about a woman from Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. Considering herself a “conservative Democrat,” she has had several of her children serve in the U.S. military. Her daughter was part of Desert Storm and, tragically, she lost her son in the current war in Iraq.

Moore interviews her extensively, showing her support for service in the armed forces, but, by the end, shows her disenfranchised due to her current heartache. She reads the last letter sent by her son, which she received after he was killed. In it, he states his disapproval of President Bush. This woman’s husband also asks what the reason is for the fighting.

Moore presents the argument that President Bush had designs (as President) to attack Iraq before he took office. Moore disavows any sincere motive on the war on terror, claiming that Bush is solely interested in making money. Evidence is presented showing business relations between the Bush family and the bin Laden family, amidst claims that Bush is more interested in securing his financial investments than the security and benefit of the American people. Moore purports that Bush receives over a billion dollars from the Saudis, compared to the $400,000 for being President, and concludes that his true interests lie overseas.

Another criticism involving the bin Laden family is that Osama’s relatives, who lived in the U.S. during the September 11th attacks, were the only ones allowed to fly. Questions are raised as to why they weren’t questioned before they left, as would be normal procedure. Furthermore, it was stated that Saudi Arabia has 860 billion dollars invested in the United States, which is roughly six to seven percent of the economy. Here again, the argument is built that President Bush is solely interested in money.

Many more facts and ideas are presented throughout this documentary. Moore presents the information at a pretty rapid pace and doesn’t really allow the audience time to think them over. He uses facts, but also exaggerates them, and relies heavily on conjecture. If you already agree with his ideas, then it will clearly be entertaining and affirming. If you don’t know the details already, don’t expect an objective presentation from his spin on them.

This film is presented entertainingly, but more than anything incites animosity and contempt for our President.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None

Off-site articles that may be of interest about this controversial film

Note: July 29, 2004—According to Reuters News Service, “‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ was shown on prime time Cuban state-run television on Thursday after playing to packed cinemas for a week… In a speech on Monday, Castro portrayed Bush as a ‘sinister’ religious fundamentalist bent on destroying Cuban socialism…” In contrast, the Prime Minister of Australia said that ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ is a “propaganda” film. “It is quite possible for something to be biased propaganda and to be factually in error yet be good entertainment.” He said that the film appears to contain significant factual errors. One reviewer points out that the movie claimed a planned oil pipeline scheme was one of the key reasons for the US ousting Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. The pipeline plan was actually dropped years earlier.

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Movie Critics
…this much at least is clear: The jury was fibbing. When the film won the Palme d’or at Cannes last month, the festival jurors (headed by Quentin Tarantino) insisted they awarded the prize for purely aesthetic and not political reasons. Nonsense. Aesthetically, this isn’t a great documentary…
—Rick Groen, Globe and Mail
…a powerful, fiery film… At times heavy-handed, at times off-putting, but well done…
—Paul Clinton, CNN
…unfocused, snide, contradictory, paranoid, emotionally manipulative, exploitive, and, at some points, outright delusional… For two painstaking hours, Moore does his best to convince us that Bush is some kind of Manchurian Candidate planted in the White House to serve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And this time, Moore is really, really serious!…
—Kevin Miller, HollywoodJesus
…The problem with this Bush-bashing film is not that it’s one-sided. It’s that director Michael Moore barely acknowledges that another side even exists…
—Peter T. Chattaway, Christianity Today magazine
…The whole point of this movie? According to Moore himself, in a recent interview, “I would like to see Mr. Bush removed from the White House.” …Moore makes no secrets about the intent of this project, and has even said that “9/11” isn’t fair and balanced journalism… Bottom line: Self-serving? Sarcastic? Controversial? Yep, all that and a whole lot more. But it all comes down to the credibility factor of the movie, and it’s just not there.
—Jackie Cronkhite, WKRN News (Nashville)
…As a filmmaker, Moore is not necessarily out to play fair but to make his case effectively… the real test of “Fahrenheit 9/11” is whether Moore is an effective persuader …That’s where Moore succeeds…
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic
…Fahrenheit 9/11 is many things, but for pity’s sake let’s not call it a documentary. To do so abuses the word and shames the good and balanced work done by filmmakers… Moore, by contrast, is a maker of agit-entertainment, of cinematic essays whose express purpose is to convince. That’s fine as long as he’s respecting his audience. But when he pushes the camera into Lipscomb’s weeping face and keeps it there, he’s saying that he doesn’t trust you to think for yourself. And that is when he becomes his enemy.
—Ty Burr, Boston Globe
…it’s an obnoxious film, to be sure, but it’s also slick and engrossing. Moore says any fence-sitters in the audience will leave having moved to the anti-Bush side, and that might be true; Moore is certainly persuasive. But regardless of how audiences vote in November, they will have this sharp, flawed, powerful film sticking in their memories.
—Eric Snider, HollywoodBitchSlap
…Political infomercial disguised as a documentary… Very strong liberal, even socialist, humanist political worldview loaded with anti-capitalist and anti-Republican elements; some anti-American elements; some Marxist Communist ideas pitting the rich against the poor…
—Jerry McGlothlin, Movieguide
…concludes Bush is incompetent, dishonest, failing in the war on terrorism, and has bad taste in friends… a compelling, persuasive film… [Moore] remains one of the most valuable figures on the political landscape…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…not the last word on President George W. Bush or Iraq. It’s Moore’s word. This movie, the subject of controversy, is a defiantly personal statement on what the war really is—laced with that now-familiar “Roger and Me” mix of homespun wit, pop culture playfulness, populist heart twisting and “gotcha” guerilla film-making tactics… This is a movie often much closer to David Letterman, “Saturday Night Live” or “Dr. Strangelove”—or a Rush Limbaugh satiric tirade—than to Ken Burns or “60 Minutes.”…
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
…no moviegoer will be bored…
—Claudia Puig, USA Today
…After his Oscar win and the controversy surround this new release, Moore is spending too much time believing his own press… stepping back from his own rage would have made “Fahrenheit 9/11” resonate with those who don’t completely buy what he’s selling.
—Mark Keizer, Boxoffice Magazine
…The first half of his Fahrenheit 9/11 is a volley of stink bombs tossed at George W. Bush. To Moore’s mind, and he supplies shrewdly edited videotapes as evidence, Bush stole a presidential election, sucked up to the ruling classes of Saudi Arabia and the United States …and exploited American fears after the 9/11 attacks to invade Iraq. As a character assassin, Moore fails, because you can’t kill anyone with contempt and sarcasm. And as an independent counsel prosecuting Bush for bamboozling America, Moore likewise misses his mark because many of the exhibits he offers as evidence are emotional rather than factual…
—Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
Negative—…I know Bush may seem somewhat off upstairs. I mean I can’t talk without making a mistake in front of a group of 10 people let alone the whole US watching from their homes. So what, he doesn’t speak well all the time; it still doesn’t mean his ideals are wrong. We were attacked, he did what was needed even though he was told not to. Bush sticks to his beliefs and will admit if he has made a mistake. This enemies we fight that are shown as not so bad of people would love to see us dead, fallen. We showed that we will never let some “faceless cowards” beat us into a corner and take away our right to live in peace. I don’t want there to be pain and suffering, I would give my own life it it would stop it all in the world.

This propaganda spread all about just causes more lies which lead to our own pain and suffering… Even in “Bowling for Columbine” I was disgusted. He forced K-mart to stop carrying hand bullets because some unguided kids bought bullets from their local K-mart and used them to shoot their fellow students. He made it seem like it is K-marts fault when it is a parenting problem. It disgusts me. I say don’t waste your money let alone help fund this idiot by buying a ticket.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Jesse B., age 20
Neutral—Let me first explain my ratings. This movie WAS offensive. But then again, it was intended to offend, outrage, and otherwise make you want to jump out of your seat and call for Bush’s immediate impeachment. And I gave it a 2½ for moviemaking because it was billed as a documentary. But most of it was filled with conjecture and no real facts. I am a Born Again Christian AND a die-hard fan of Michael Moore (If there is anyone else out there, like me, I’d love to meet you) I absolutely loved “Bowling for Columbine.” But this movie actually had the opposite of its intended effect. I went in, expecting to walk out having had my distrust of Bush boosted. But instead, I got a chance to see our President as something else. I got to see him as a human being. There were scenes of him wearing a T-shirt and jeans on his off-time. I can’t remember ever seeing a past President in such casual attire.

While I still don’t agree with Bush’s policies regarding the filthy rich (he has a tendency to pat them on the back while tearing my wallet to shreds in the process) I have new respect for him as a human being. I still don’t trust Bush, but the great thing about a Democracy is if I don’t like the guy in office, I can speak up and make my voice heard. And maybe, if enough people agree with me, change can be made. I still don’t like President Bush; but at least now after viewing “Fahrenheit 9/11” I don’t hate him anymore.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2½]
—Pete in Buffalo, age 25
Negative—I feel that any American who views this film owes our President Mr. George W. Bush an apology, including myself for watching it just to check it out. It is one-sided and just a political ad for Kerry. I vote both parties, but plan to vote for Bush especially after seeing this trash.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Ken, age 57
Negative—…I’m not stopping anyone from seeing this movie, but please be careful. Michael Moore is a lunatic and his ideas are just as crazy. this movie is obviously motivated by hate… hate for our president. Whether we agree or disagree with the administrations policies, we’ve got to stop being such cynics and letting people get the best of our doubts. Yes, we should always keep a close eye on the government, but remember “Dubaya” IS a brother in Christ (“believer”) and whether you like the job he’s been doing or not (it could be worse; we could have Clinton again)… You can’t argue the fact that the man has character and integrity and is a strong moral leader. So think about it before you go and spend the 8 or 9 bucks. After all we are responsible for where are money goes (boycot France!).
—Joshua Hernandez, age 20
Negative—…This film is nothing but a propaganda machine by the radical left in this country. The supposed “facts” presented by Moore have been not only disputed but disproven, and not just by those on the right but by people in his own party. These people are motivated by pure hatred for George W. Bush. They want him out so they can push through laws and judges that will uphold Roe v. Wade, legalize gay marriage and further limit the free speech of Christians. If as Christians we want to talk about how morality is declining in this nation, then lets stand up and do something about it. But if we try to do it while sitting quietly when the left puts up an attempt like this to grab power, they won’t take us seriously and neither should anyone else.
—Adam Jones, age 22
Positive—I consider my political stance as something near to that of the woman that lost her son in Iraq in this film, as I, too, consider myself a conservative Democrat… I don’t hold with greed and insensitivity, but I also don’t agree with those who attack the President (whether he happens to have a D or an R in front of his name) in a personal, unfair way. Now, that said, the first half of this film is pretty far-fetched and, at times, mean-spirited. To suggest that Bush orchestrated a massive voter-fraud campaign to strip Gore of his presidency is ridiculous. The humor in this film is hilarious, but, again, at times, makes George Bush look much dumber (I hope) than he really is. The fact that he is a poor speaker and often looks like more like a confused child than a powerful leader should take a back seat to the fact that he appears to have some questionable motivations for his policies.

The second half of the film is excellent. The most powerful scenes come when Moore includes the necessarily violent, bloody images of dead children and wounded veterans, intertwined with the thoughtless disregard of many of the U.S. soldiers. Equally as moving is Moore’s compassionate description of the life of a Christian mother who lost her son in a war that seems not to be completely necessary. Few can remain untouched when she speaks of her flesh aching for a child that she will never see again in this life.

The film also raises serious questions about the Haleburton contract in Iraq and Cheney’s links to its establishment, and also raises very valid questions about the necessity for ANY kind of war. Overall, the film is biased and flawed, but it is also well-made and compelling and it something that everyone of maturity should see and go into with no political biases that would lead them to label the film as radical left wing propaganda or to use as an excuse to criticize the President unfairly…
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Doug Coleman, age 21
Negative—…this was the most untruthful bunch of nonsense I’ve ever seen. This Michael Moore makes me sick. He’s against Bush sending the volunteered soldiers off to war, yet he’s PRO-draft! That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! And the whole purpose for Bush not to tax the wealthy is because the wealthy are able to hire those who are not so wealthy. By doing so, more jobs are available. Now, if he raised the taxes on the wealthier people, those wealthy people would be forced to lay off several of their not-so-wealthy employees because the EMPLOYED cannot afford to EMPLOY them. Instead of taking away from the wealthy and giving it to the people who refuse to work and live off of welfare. Michael Moore needs some serious re-examination on his movie because it is a total disgrace to America… especially to the foreign viewers. This movie could forge an attack on America with thanks to Michael Moore. He should be ashamed of himself.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Nancy, age 24
Positive—This is a fascinating, even if uneven, film. On the negative side, the first half of the film, especially, suffers from having too many cheap shots and relying too much on innuendo and non sequiturs. And it takes too many cheap shots (which is easy to do with a president that often looks like he’s puzzled).

On the positive side, this film does a better job than than any film I’ve seen recently to remind us that it is real people who die in wars and real people who are doing the killing. It also presents the players—soldiers, parents, politicians AND the enemy—as real people rather than just some sort of entertainment scripted for us by cable TV. Moore does an excellent job of raising the questions that need to be asked (and a not-so-good job giving answers), and that’s why I give this film a positive rating.

As Christians, we need to be wary of using and/or supporting violence in any but the most unusual circumstances. It isn’t enough to say, as some seem to do, that because Bush is a Christian and prays daily (and I have no doubt about the sincerity of his faith), he must be right. We must live and act to a higher standard than that and ever be mindful of Jesus’ teaching that those who live by the sword will die by it also. This nation has been greatly blessed, and Moore reminds us (in his own way, of course) that we will be judged according to how we use the blessings of military and financial might.

In terms of moral issues, this film is a mixed bag. On the negative side, Moore’s use of cheap shots isn’t always fair or respectful. On the other hand, he does force us to consider the personhood of our enemies, who are also children of God, a perspective all too missing in much of the national dialogue today.

It is worth nothing that, as easy as it might have been, Moore doesn’t criticize Bush’s religious beliefs, as many others from the left have done. (The only reference to Christianity, other than the celebration of Christmas, was positive.) And while there is some vulgar language (not out of place in the context), there isn’t any abuse of the name of God or his Son.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Eric, age 51
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Jim O’Neill
Neutral—…This Christian says “No” to the Bush agenda but also is not a fan of Moore… This movie is good, and I agree with most of the movie, but some facts are not believable like the claim about Afghanistan. I think Moore can be too loose with the facts and it hurts his movie some. But overall the movie was good and heartwrenching… Even though I think Moore is full of himself and he plays loose with the facts, I find him more believable than this administration. I wished this movie was never made, but times like this, you need a movie like this. I also recommened “Uncovered:The Truth About the Iraq War” and please pray for the troops and our country.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—A follower in Christ, age 21
Positive—This is a film ALL Americans should watch, My husband compared it to watching the news. We are at war, and Americans should be aware of why we are at war…
My Ratings: [Good/3]
Negative—No Christian should support Michael Moore or his beliefs. The Bible specifically states in Romans that we are to respect our civil authorities because there is NO authority unless it is GIVEN BY GOD. Therefore, President George W. Bush is President of the United States because God saw fit in his omniscient providence to allow him to be. Further, look at what Michael Moore supports: abortion, gun control, liberal economics, etc. ad nauseum. A Christian that can think on his own should never support a man such as Michael Moore
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Joshua F. Reif, age 18

Comments from young people
Positive—…Quite an amazing film. Though some of the facts seem questionable, some parts of this film you just cannot ignore. Some have dismissed it as left wing propaganda, but it seems Moore has a problem with government in general, not either side. The film is presented with a mix of heart-wrenching emotions, and sarcastic dark humor. I felt as if I was watching a comedy during 60% of the film, Moore’s quick one-liners make the film enjoyable. What’s surprising is that you see less of Moore in this film, unlike Bowling for Columbine.

The editing is done well, but nothing amazing. It seemed some footage was drawn out, as if he had nothing more to show (note: Christmas in Iraq). But you never did get bored, at least, I didn’t. We’re told to pray for our leaders, and hope they come to their senses, which this film make induce.

Now, from a Christian standpoint, there isn’t anything horribly offensive. There is one scene of full frontal nudity on a small boy, and the “F” word is repeated four times in the same sentence. And of course there is some very horrible images of death and gore… I recommend everyone see the film, no matter what their political preference.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Dylan, age 13
Negative—I really disagreed about this movie bashing Bush so much. Yea, so he’s not perfect, but he’s trying. And the movie was filled with lies about Bush and the war on Iraq. From a Christian standpoint, I think that every Christian should vote for Bush this coming election… think about it, who would you rather have in office? A Christian or a non-Christian? Yea, Kerry says he’s Catholic, but if he is, then how come the Catholics refuse to give him communion?? Plus, Bush stands up for what he believes in, Kerry just tryies to make the crowd happy. This movie shouldn’t have been shown, and I advise everyone NOT to see it.
My Ratings: [Average/1]
—Lauren, age 16
PositiveMichael Moore has an excellent point to make. He presents facts and raises an excellent question: does it look like the United States government is being completely honest? While some things are obviously exaggerated or presented unfairly, facts remain facts. You can’t just dismiss Michael Moore as a left-wing nutcase, consider what he has to say before putting all of your trust into the Bush government. I didn’t appreciate the gruesome scenes or profane sections but they were used to make a point. The violence was not glorified and the profanity was not gratuitous. Please do not accept everything that the United States government says as the truth without question, look at what is going on around you.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—John, age 17
Negative—…this movie is not a documentary, it is a propaganda film! Most of Moore’s “facts” and “info” is a complete lie meant to make President Bush look bad.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Doug, age 18
Positive—This film is not anti-American at all. This movie is anti-corporate America, not anti working class America. Mr. Moore’s encounter with the woman who lost a son shows that he supports people like her, you, and I. The film shows accurately how George W. Bush is an advocate of big business owners. As people of the Christian faith we must acknowledge the section of the Bible where Jesus states “Blessed are the poor and faithful, for they shall inherit the Kingdom of God.” As for the war violence and the vulgar song, Moore is trying to show how war is a terrible part of our world.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Joe Bolzenius, age 16
Negative—It’s amazing how people are so desperate to win an election. I don’t think Bush has done anything like this. The people who made this movie have one thing on their mind… public humiliation for Republicans…
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—Geoff Miller, age 12
Positive—…Coming off “Bowling for Columbine,” I didn’t know what to expect. There were many flaws with that movie, many of them in the tactics Moore used in presenting his collage of issues he has with American gun policy. With that film I found myself often agreeing with him in spirit, though at odds with his methods. This is not the case with “Fahrenheit 9/11”. The movie was not what I expected… in fact, it was much better. I thought Moore would digress into the wry and sarcastic humor that he sometimes used in previous films…
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Michael, age 21
Positive—This movie was very moving for me. I am an African American teen male, and I can see how important it was for Moore to release this movie. All I can say is that the truth must come out, and it is starting to. I really support this film not just because I am a fan of moore, but also because I am from florida, the state where votes of many black people were not counted. I personally believe that 9/11 and all of the other mess going on now is a result of how the 2000 election went down. Yes, there is much evil out there when it comes to terrorists, but what about the evil that is generated over in our country because of the love of money? We as a race of people are living in a world that is only willing to talk about so-called positive things, not understanding that, because of the sin and rebellion of Adam and Eve, that every aspect of life has a positive and negative part to it. God can use whatever he wants to convey a message to people, and whether or not Moore says hallelujah all of the time does not matter. We as Christians need to stop trying to rebuke everything out there that could possibly be a blessing. We need to look at history, study the Bible in-depth, and understand that everything belongs to God the father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost…
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Gary Autry, Jr., age 17