DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of  9/11 and related films (including In Memoriam, Saving Jessica Lynch, The Battle of Algiers, September, Meltdown, Wide Angle/Suicide Bombers), Brigand 09-11-01, Seven Days in September Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon, Dirty War, Inside 9/11, Zero Hour, The Final Report, The Flight that Fought Back , Last Best Chance ; Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs , The War Within , WTC View , Protocols of Zion , Flight 93 , I Missed Flight 93, World Trade Center, The Miracle of Stairway B, Flight 175: As the World Watched, After 9/11: Rebuilding Lives, Camp 9/11: Children of Hope,  The Man Who Predicted 9/11 , United 93 Three Days in September, Typhoon , District B13, The Great New Wonderful , Cavite , Clear the Skies, Grounded on 9/11, The Path to 9/11, Right at your Door, The Cloud, Saint of 9/11, The Kingdom, Rendition, In the Name of God, Brick Lane, Lions for Lambs, PU-239, Where in the WORLD is Osama bin Laden, Traitor, A Mighty Heart , Frozen River, Clandestinos, Incendiary,  Gomorrah, 102 Minutes That Changed America ; The Underwear Bomber; Remember Me; 9/11 Science and Conspiracy; The Oath; Making Of; Day Night; Countdown to Zero; My Trip to Al Qaeda, September Tapes

 

Title:  9/11

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 120 minutes

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  CBS, Nextel (corporate sponsor)

Director; Writer: James Hanlon and Robert Klug

Producer:

Cast:  Robert De Niro (narrator, host) with Steve Buscemi ; French filmmakers Jules Naudet and Gedeon Naudet

Technical: television

Relevance to doaskdotell site:

Review:

This is CBS’s controversial docudrama of the events of 9-11-2001 from the point of view of members of the New York City Fire Department, as filmed by Jules and Gedeon Naudet. Most of the footage in this film was taken as the events folded from the street that day of infamy.

 

The first thirty minutes of the film shows life in a typical NYC fire department, including the training and washout. It certainly takes a more conventionally socialized male to be a fireman (I would say “warrior” but that is misleading) and life in a fire department has many of the features of the military – including bunking overnight and unit cohesion. (In the 1970s the acceptance of gays had been resisted for the same reasons it would later be opposed by the military in the 1990s and even the Boy Scouts/)

 

The firemen are doing routine street manhole checks when a plane roars and whines over them. The hit on the North Tower of the World Trade Center is shown real time. Within one minute the fire department was there setting up the command center. The lobby would stay surprisingly intact almost until the time the tower fell. The sounds of the people who jump make huge slamming sounds as the hit outside, although the film does not show the people on camera. The South Tower hit is heard in audio as the firemen work.  It is then (17 minutes after the first plane) that everyone knows that this is a terrorist attack, and that the world is changed forever. The South Tower would collapse first, and from many viewpoints it was hard to see that it was actually falling behind the smoke (ABC did not report that it had fallen for about ten minutes.)  Even many of the firemen did not know for a while that it had collapsed.

 

The enormous dust storm and blackout is captured in detail after the North Tower collapse, as the photographer was caught in the tornado and nearly perished.

 

At least 343 NYC firefighters perished in this tragedy. The web site for details and for contributions is http://www.nyfd.com/  The Company was Engine 7, Ladder 11.

 

The film was rebroadcast on Sept 10, 2006 by 2006 in competition with the ABC “Path to 9/11” (below).

 

Other documentaries and films will give a broader perspective of this day and how it will affect us.  But this film is important for its showing the incredible commitment it takes to be a fireman, something most of us take for granted. Backdraft this is not.

 

Docurama and Artistic License offer a Bill Moyers video, The 11th of September: Moyers in Conversation.  Bill Moyers converses with a number of academic, religious and artistic leaders about the events of this day, in the few weeks that followed. One of the most remarkable guests is Robert Jay Lifton, of the City University of New York, who goes on to discuss “purification” theology where the terrorist believes that he is replacing the world with some kind of new moral order. The fundamentalist (in any faith) does not believe in bringing up new ideas or in debate (much less democracy), because moral purity is supposed to stem from absolute conformity to relatively “simple” religious values.  Other guests include Tamim Ansary and Bill T. Jones.

 

On May 26, 2002 HBO presented its hour-long film (dir. Brad Grey) on 9-11, In Memoriam: New York City 9/11/01. There were amateur videos of the crashes and collapses and even of people jumping from the twin towers (even including stills). The horror of the day is captured with graphic, street-level videos. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the guide and emphasizes the nature of America as a place where anyone can advance oneself and participate in public culture regardless of religion. The film includes classical music by Barber, Copland, and Ives in the background and ends with “God Bless America.”

 

In July 2004 PBS provided “9/11: Clear the Skies” a one hour documentary that clearly traces the extent to which the administration went that day to prepare for the possibility of full-scale war. Many members of Congress and administration officials were evacuated from Washington for the day (perhaps to Mt. Weather in the Blue Ridge). A Air Force unit in upstate New York was actually on maneuvers to respond to a terrorist attack when the real one happened, but the Air Force was unable to reach the hijacked planes in time.  Had Flight 93 been reached, it might have been possible to shoot out one engine and force a crash landing, assuming a passenger on board (the hijackers having been overcome??) knew how to land it.

 

In August 2006 The History Channel aired “Grounded on 9/11” (60 minutes), again documenting air traffic control’s empyting of the skies over North America by noon on 9/11. The center of activity was Cleveland. There was another flight that was mixed up with Flight 93, and downtown Cleveland was evacuated. Furthermore, in Boston, apparently security personnel did find radical Islamist literature in the lobby after the second plane took off. The residents of Gander, Newfoundland, provided hospitality to 5000 passengers stranded there for three days, and there actually an emergency 747 landing in Whitehorse, Yukon.

 

A&E Biography Channel has presented a one hour film “Osama bin Laden” in 2004.

 

French producer Alain Brigand with Studio Canal (and Empire Pictures) have produced a Satie-like docudrama 09-11-01 September 11, as a sequence of 11 short films (one directed by Sean Penn) from different countries, each exactly 11 minutes and 9 seconds. The trouble is the come across as filmmaking exercises rather than as a real account of the importance of 9-11. Somewhat interesting were the parallels to other terrorist incidents, as in one film where the angelic ghost of a dead Marine recounts the 1983 attack in Lebanon.

 

On September 4, 2004 A&E presented Seven Days in September (Camera Planet, dir. Steven Rosenbaum, with Gary Pollard, Jennifer Spell, Philip Di Pilato and others), as an impromptu collage (similar to Brigand’s film) of clips and presentations by various video filmmakers in New York City that day. (Do not confuse with the Sony Classics film One Day in September, about the Munich terrorist attack at the Olympics in 1972). Particularly interesting were the neighborhood shots (even insides of other buildings as they became smoke filled) and the voluntary efforts on that and on succeeding days. There are interviews with a couple of children, one of whom links Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden (that may be not completely correct, as we now know) and says they should both be killed. A&E paired this film with The Anatomy of September 11th, which presents a technical exposition of the failures of both World Trade Center towers, and accounts of how people survived and escaped, and of how some died, one talking to a spouse when the tower collapsed. The collapse of the towers was the most shocking development of the day—each pancake collapse, initiated when inadequately protected steel beams bucked in fire, took less than ten seconds, with the South Tower actually tilting just before it went down.  

 

 

 

In September 2003, Showtime presented a docudrama DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, with Timothy Bottoms and John Cunningham, in which the actions of the Bush administration from the moment just before the planes hit until Bush’s speech on 9/20 are re-enacted. There are interesting details, such as the rumor that there would be West Coast attacks, random sniper attacks around the country, and an attack against Air Force One. It seems hard to believe, based on what has come out about what Bush knew, that he first momentarily thought that the first plane had been a heart attack. Indeed, it seems that a lot ordinary people received emails in the days before (apparently appearing to be an email worm) warning that something would happen.

 

CBS News presents a DVD with the Simon & Schuster book What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001—in Words, Pictures and Video, introduced by Dan Rather, and the actual events start Bryant Gumbel at 8:52 AM, six minutes after the first plane hit the North Tower.

 

Spike Lee’s film 25th Hour (2002, Touchstone), which chronicles the last day of liberty of a convicted drug dealer played by Ed Norton, shows a nighttime shot of Ground Zero, after it has been cleaned up, with dump trucks running around inside in a way that makes the size of the site immense.

 

Could a “fictional” dramatic film reenact the actual real time of that morning, with survivors communicating between the struck buildings or even with passengers on flight 93? There have been plans for a docudrama of Flight 93 for network television. Would this be commercially exploiting a tragedy? Eventually the public will be able to deal with this as tragic history, just as it does now with Pearl Harbor and much more recent events. History must always be presented. The capture or death of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri would, I think, make this idea more feasible and acceptable to investors. The day for a feature theater film like this is coming. I now think that the capture or death of these two leaders of Al Qaeda will, in the words of James Baker (Secretary of State in the first Bush administration) happen “sooner rather than later.”

 

Another documdrama DC Sniper: 23 Days of Fear (2003, USA Films) aired on the USA network Oct 17, 2003, and stars Chales S. Dutton and Jay O. Sanders, recreated the terror caused in the area around Washington, DC in October 2002 by snipers John Allen Muhammad (Williams) and Lee Malvo, with some of the random sniper scenes rather graphic. What comes across is how much disruption and chaos two determined terrorists can cause. The mentorship of Malvo by Mohammed comes across in a few scenes, such as one involving a chess game with a rather bizarre end-game position. The police investigation and portrayal of Charles Moose were rather routine, however.

 

Right before Veteran’s Day 2003, NBC presented Saving Jessica Lynch (Laura Regan and Nicholas Guilak), based on the rescue of Private Lynch as a POW captured in late March 2003 as part of the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a controversial step in President Bush’s war on terror. The film focuses mainly on the military operations—the firefight in Nasiriyah, her capture, her medical treatment in Iraqi hands, the Iraqi informant, and her rescue. Her return home and her medical care were presented only briefly, although in one episode Iraqi doctors almost amputate her leg. The military scenes were pretty true to real, with the step-by-step maneuvers recalling “individual tactical training” of my own Basic.  The Iraqi defector has to deal with loyalty to his own family compared to what he sees as right for himself and his country in the longer run. The other issue that comes up is why young people join the Army—economic opportunity, the chance to have much of education paid. In one sense, then, our current volunteer system that attracts the relatively poor is almost acting like a draft. On Nov. 10, Jessica Lynch issued a statement claiming that the movie misrepresented the facts for essentially political effect. She was not shot in the initial attack on March 23, and she disagreed with the portrayal of the Iraqi hospital. Book deals and movies sometimes follow military heroes or heroines, but other wounded servicemembers have been left to flounder after discharge in the bureaucracy of the veterans’ health and disability system.

 

The Pentagon military brass spent some time in 2003 privately screening the restored 1966 black-and-white classic The Battle of Algiers (Rialto Films), directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, in French and Arabic.  In the 1950s, Arabs living in poorer sections of Algiers gradually rise up against French colonial occupiers, up to the point of gaining Algierian independence in 1962. Algeria in the 1950s was legally part of sovereign France. The terrorists would stage hit-and-run attacks, depicted in sequence, in cafes and various public places, making Algiers into a kind of Beirut. The planting of bombs and setup of ambushes are shown in detail, in one scene with a clock that reminds one of “High Noon.” The French military goes through the exercise of suspending due process, with many rationalizations. By later 1957 the city seems back in control, only to fall to a revolution from the countryside starting in late 1960. Similar problems would befell the French in Vietnam (then Indochina).

 

NBC will present a non-fiction docudrama of 9-11 on Sunday April 11, 2004, Homeland Security. http://www.nbc.com/nbc/Movies_&_Specials/  This film, starring Tom Skerritt (Alien, 1979) and Grant Show, dramatizes the days before and after 9-11. The narrative is too hasty and characters to shallow to have much effect on the viewer. Some of the script conveys “information” but that too is overly transparent. It is better to go into depth about one or two strong characters and walk them through the experience of 9-11. Hollywood hasn’t done this yet. Some of the material seems untrue or exaggerated: I don’t recall anyone being stopped at the Canadian border with a dirty bomb right after 9-11. Massoud was assassinated on 9-9, not 9-8. There are amusing moments, as when two FBI agents (who may or may not be gay) make a crack about “don’t ask don’t tell.”

 

The Washington DC International Film Festival presented September (2003, Warner Brothers, Nf2/Distant Dreams/Telepool/ZDF, dir. Max Faederbroeck, 115 min, R) about the lives of several ordinary characters in Berlin, Germany on September 11, 2001 and the following days. There is a couple going through a divorce and dealing with a son the father sees as self-indulgent, the outspoken journalist whose editor denies him free expression, a Pakastani who has to ratify his own Islamic beliefs. The film opens with a choppy reenactment of the events of that day as seen from Europe, followed by intrusions of speeches of President George W. Bush from time to time. The 9-11 media events sometimes disconnected from a sense of character-driven story. The photography is in muted, greenish, dreary colors suggesting little sunshine.

 

There is a novel September by Bridget Marks (2004, pub. Volt Press), presented on Dr. Phil on June 1, 2005. The novel tells the story of a woman who loses a son in the World Trade Center on 9/11 but then travels to meet a lost love in the Middle East, a man who may be a terrorist. There was an earlier novel with that name by Rosamunde Pilcher (1991, St. Martins).

 

Meltdown (20th Century Fox, for the FX channel, with Bruce Greenwood, Arnold Vosloo, 2004) presents, in docudrama style, a hypothetical ground attack on a nuclear power plant near Los Angeles, with a few twists. For a while, the attack really is from a disgruntled G.I. Joe, who wants to show up the government for building bunkers for itself and leave the soft targets of ordinary citizens undefendable. Then there is the exploit of bad government deeds, such as using uranium-tipped shells in Afghanistan and in the Persian Gulf War.  At the end, when all is resolved, the government is determined to present this publicly as a typical Al Qaeda attack. The docudrama has an Orson Wells effect (with its Level Red Terror Alert, the “first ever”), and would scare the public if not limited to a cable channel; riots are described, as are chilling webcasts, where the government keeps trying to shut the speakers down. (Here is another link that explores our own government’s possible complicity.)

 

For a note about Michael Moore’s as yet (5/2004) undistributed film Fahrenheit 9/11 (caught in the middle of a corporate censorship battle between Miramax and its owner Disney) see http://www.doaskdotell.com/t911.htm  (This film is also searchable as “Fahrenheit 911”.)  Apparently the new distributor will be Lions Gate Films.

 

PBS Wide Angle presented the 60-min documentary Suicide Bombers, directed by Tom Roberts and Israel Goldvicht, in which five Palestinian suicide bombers are interviewed, on July 1, 2004. The contents are heartwrenching. This is war, and it is over religion; yet it is being treated as a criminal matter with the young men bearing the brunt of a moral outrage. The first young man, 18, says that his life on the West Bank is worthless, that living it simply brings an emasculating sense of shame, and that if he dies for Allah he will go to Paradise. We have all heard this, in discussions about the 9/11 hijackers, some of them well-educated, and we have read essays on why some Muslims blow themselves up (personal shame is an unacceptable emotion), but here it bores into pulp like a dentist doing a root canal without anesthesia. The other young men, all appealing (and looking like typical Caucasians, whatever the stereotypes in the media) also attribute the shame to their lands being taken by Jewish settlers. At the end of the film, BBC News journalist Mishal Husain interviews grassroots Palestinian leader Sari Nusseibeh, who advocates a peace plan where Palestinians have freedom but give up the right to go back to their pre 1967 lands—but he emphasizes that support is needed at the grassroots. Historically, the suicide bombings slacked off between 1993 and 2000 (after the Oslo Accords, most of the Clinton presidency) until the second intifada (which seems motivated largely by the emergence of the right wing within Israel’s government).

 

The next question related to suicide bombings in other countries. It does happen—most notably now in Iraq. Americans have been spared this (outside of the 9/11 event itself, of course) because the number of hardcore terrorists in cells likely to use this method in this country is probably very small (and their immigration is more difficult). Of course, there is plenty of shame in our own society (it can go back to slavery and segregation) but is there anything like the taking of land away now by force? Libertarians know how unacceptable that really is. 

 

PBS Frontline also has an important one hour documentary In Search of Al Qaeda (2003) that documents wild tribal areas in eastern Pakistan (the Pashtun areas) and Yemen, which are very difficult for governments to control. The Pashtun area may well be hiding Osama bin Laden. The hatred of American (at least the imperialism if not the secularism) is intense among younger men who, often without girl friends, seem susceptible to the most fundamentalist ideology, as they believe they are serving Allah alone (Allah Akbar!) Saudi Arabia is shown, with its capital Riyadh, which looks rather like Phoenix until you notice the religious police.

 

Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon (20th Century Fox, 2002, 100 min, TV, dir. Daniel Percival) was shown on FX again on Jan 2, 2005. The network prefaces the movies with a disclaimer that the film is for “entertainment” only and is fictitious, reminding us of Orson Wells and his “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast in the 1930s. This film is a chilling docudrama that shows what could have happened had a terrorist infected himself with a Russian strain of smallpox and circulated in New York City on April 1, 2002. (That’s the day my site was hacked!)  For about 100 days the geometric progression is relentless (as are the control measures leading to martial law) until it relents on July 10 (my birthday!)  The government has to dilute its vaccine supply by 6:1 and now, we are told, there is much more vaccine so this would not happen now (in 2005). The terrorist turns out to be a lone fanatic who poisons himself in the NYC subway tunnels, but leaves a key to his apartment with a Bible pointing to an apocalyptic prophesy in Ezekiel. How the terrorist got the strain from Russia is not explained. However, we know that during the Cold War the Russians had plans to cover us with bio-weapons after a nuclear exchange (and we probably had the same plans.)  The epidemic spreads worldwide, and in Africa almost all the HIV-positive cases die. Some of the narrative focuses on one American family living in London; it gets quarantined, and then the family gets a late dilute vaccine. The young adult or late teen boy (John?? Not credited on IMDB) is documenting the epidemic on his camcorder. Unfortunately, his vaccine does not take. The results are soon tragic. One lesson from all of this: don’t take your freedom for granted!

 

ABC “Nightline” presented a two-part war game “Dark Winter” as a recreation of a 2001 (pre 9/11) administration exercise of a smallpox outbreak, on Feb 16 and 17, 2005. (On Feb 22, I dreamed that I was watching a HDCAM DV movie called “Dark Winter,” in which the hero is escaping from a world in which the laws of physics are changing rapidly.)

 

Dirty War (2004, HBO/Miramax/BBC, dir. Daniel Percival) presents a docudrama of a dirty bomb attack in the City of London around Liverpool Street. Apparently the radioactive contaminant is quite toxic and potent (perhaps Strontium 90), capable of emitting gamma rays, and was stolen from the black market from Russia (or the other former republics like Georgia, where Sr-90 was found) through Bulgaria. There are several loosely confederated sleeper cells in on the plot, and some of the terrorists, out of the devotion to the “Uuma” die from mishandling the material. The bomb goes off, and it soon becomes clear that all of the planning by the authorities with previous drills (one of which opens the movie) has been woefully inadequate to prevent an economic catastrophe. Anyone within about a mile of the bomb blast but be held for decontamination – in fact cannot eat or drink anything until decontamination – so this envelops potentially tens of thousands of people. The contamination cloud creates a hyperbola that makes over 3 square miles unusable for 30 years. Millions of people are financially ruined, pensions lost, businesses destroyed, and the government cannot revive them. The final scenes show the outfield fences keeping people out of the contaminated area. Firemen are put at great risk to go to ground zero, men only, and they sacrifice their fertility, at least. Cast: Louise Delemare, William El-Gardi, Alastair Galbrait, Koel Puri, Martin Sarge.

 

Inside 9/11 (2005, National Geographic, dir. Mike Heasley, about 225 min, sug. PG-13) aired on the National Geographic Channel Aug. 21 and 22, traces the history of Osama bin Laden’s movement back to the days of the first Persian Gulf War, through the 1993 World Trade Center car garage bombing, through the assembly of “The Planes” operation (with several other plots and attacks in the Clinton years), to the assembly of the hijacker teams and a vivid recreation of 9/11 in the second half of the film. One moment that is particularly curious is the prediction of a New York City high school freshman from Pakistan on Sept. 6 that the Twin Towers would not be standing next week. There is anecdotal evidence that some teens from Islamic areas of the world, even teens who may not practice Islam, may have converted to Catholicism or practice no religion, may have distant contact with some of the families of the hijackers.

 

Inside 9/11: Zero Hour (National Geographic, 2006,  about 120 min) was aired on Aug. 29, 2006. This documentary retraces the details of the four planes on 9/11, combining the coverage of both big Hollywood films this year. It actually starts in Portland, ME, when a ticket agent notices the angry expression on the face of Mohammed Atta. It also explains the collapse of both towers as well as the destruction in the Pentagon. At the end there is brief coverage of the Bali nightclub bombing in October 2002, the Madrid train bombings in 2004, the London subway bombings in 2005, and the threat with liquid explosives in 2006. Apparently the military thought that the law prohibited it from sharing its information with the FBI before 9/11, although JAG cannot confirm this. Near the end experts warn that it make take another major attack to galvanize America again! Osama bin Laden is shown as saying “American love live, I love death!” 

 

The Final Report: Osama’s Escape (National Geographic, 2006) documents the October to December 2006 war in Afghanistan and tries to explain how Osama bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora (probably). At one point it was thought that he might have been killed in rubble in a cave. Sebastian Junger often comments, to the effect that the Northern Allanace and anti-Taliban forces did not regard bin Laden as a big issue. It is known from anecdotal evidence that he has many ties with the Pashtun tribes, and maybe even some ties in the major port, Karachi, where he might escape at sea.

 

NBC Third Watch and Medical Investigation presented a “crossover” film about the Marburg (Ebola) virus on Feb 18, 2005; these present a potential blood-borne threat, harder for a terrorist than smallpox would be.

 

Let’s Roll: The Story of Flight 93 is shown as imdb.com as having been made in 2002 for TV (as a documentary) by Granada Television. I have not yet been able to find it.

 

However, The Discovery Channel will soon (as of 9/2005) air a film called The Flight That Fought Back (apparently with Tom Brokaw).

 

This film was aired on the evening of 9/11/2005. Info: 2005, The Discovery Channel, dir. Bruce Goodison, UK/USA, 90 min, PG-13, with interviews by Tom Brokaw. The film is set up as a docudrama, with actors for the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 and hijackers, and with still photos of the actual people, with the real spouses, siblings, children, and parents of the passengers. The film begins with a provocative manner, with a shot of the CBS Morning News that day, whereupon we shift to a scene in a hotel room, over the washbasin, where a man shaves his forearms and presumably his underarms and chest. This was reported in the media as part of the radical Islam “purification” ritual before a suicide mission. Soon the film shifts to interviews with family members, including the mother of Mark Bingham.  Mark is described as an unstereotyped gay man who played rugby. Several other major passengers are presented, including one with a son at West Point. Soon the film goes into the narrative of the day’s tragic events, with passengers gradually getting the word that this is no ordinary hikacking. Mark Bingham’s mother leaves a blunt voice mail on Mark’s cell phone that this is a suicide mission, intending to use the plane as a missile, and that they might as well counterattack against the hijackers. The later part of the film shows the attempts to breach the cockpit with the snack cart. At one point, Todd Beamer really says, “Let’s roll!” There is controversy over whether the Air Force would have shot them down anyway, but at the time of the crash in Shanksville, Pa the nearest jet was 150 miles away, and permission to shoot down a civilian jet had not yet been granted.

 

A&E presented the Fox TV movie Flight 93, directed by Peter Markle, on Jan. 30, 2006. According to a Yahoo! Video, some families of victims now support the movie.

 

The film (100 min, sug PG-13) starts like the previous one, with a chilling scene of the terrorists in the motel, shaving their faces, then one of them shaving his chest after spreading shaving cream on it, almost as if his chest were an extension of his face and beard. All that body shaving is rumored to be specified in various Islamic rituals, but I don’t think the Koran says anything like that (and so far, no film about the Hajj has mentioned it). This film is more dramatic than the previous one. The hijackers put on red bandanas just before they take over the plane. There is a little more drama with the families receiving the phone calls. The turnaround of the plane in northern Ohio is shown as nearly causing it to crash, and there are some witness accounts that say it actual turned around a little further west, about six miles NW of the town of Kipton (near Oberlin) Ohio, and nearly crashed there. “Let’s roll” is said softly, but the passengers roll the car as a battering ram or ramrod to destroy the cockpit door. Had they been able to kill the hijackers and control the plane, there is a reasonable chance that a few of the passengers would have been able to control it and get back to Air Traffic control and land it around Johnstown or perhaps a little farther east where it is flatter, like Lancaster. The crash was in old stripmine country, three miles from Shanksville, west of Allegheny Mountain on the Pa. turnpike, and not too far from the famous UFO incident near Kecksberg. The fighter jets that might have shot the plane down are shown. Had the plane reached the Capitol (or the White House), everyone would have long since been evacuated from any major building, so even given the enormous destruction, there might have been few deaths on the ground.  

 

A&E preceded the film with a one-hour documentary, The Man Who Predicted 9/11, about Morgan Stanley security chief Rick Rescorla, who sacrificed himself in Tower #2 while making sure that his employees got out. He had been security chief during the 1993 parking garage attack and had expected an air attack. He had been a Vietnam veteran and had left Britain (where he was a boy during WWII) to become an American in the 1950s.  A supplementary documentary is The Last Hour of Flight 11, aired on Jan. 31, which documents the American Airlines flight that ploughed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

 

Former Senator Sam Nunn of Ga (notorious perhaps in 1993 for his role with “don’t ask don’t tell” with regard to gays in the military) has produced a docudrama film about loose nuclear weapons called The Last Best Chance.  I am trying to find out where this film can be seen. A clip was shown from NBC “Meet the Press” on 5/29/2005.

 

This film arrived Oct. 11, 2005. The details are (2005, HBO/NTI/Nuclear Threat Initiative/MacArthur Foundation, Carnegie Corp., 45 min, with an interview of Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar conducted as “A Conversation with Tom Brokaw (15 min), all dir. Ben Goddard). The film is a docudrama of how Al Qaeda could carry out the theft of loose tactical nuclear weapons (in this case, from Belarus), use highly enriched uranium (HEU) to make crude Hiroshima-style bombs in a warehouse in Poland, then get one or two of them into the U.S. and one into Britain or France (near the Chunnel), one into Mexico, and maybe one into Russia. Part of the plot is to provoke a Defcon 2 situation between the U.S. and Russia, and precipitate World War III. The film brings out the risks inherent in the remnants of the Cold War (the old defenses between the US and the Soviets) as well as loose nuclear materials all over the world, including the U.S. itself. “It will make a big impression in New York” a driver says, as the weapon is disguised as a Polish work of art and, shielded in lead, not detected by customs radiation detectors entering either  Canada or the U.S.  Fred Dalton Thompson plays a future President Ross, and Jon Gries plays Bernard Wheeler.  The conversation emphasizes the economic and social destruction of our way of life that a single nuclear attack could cause. The tone of the film and discussion is that this is preventable, but I wonder, given how much material is loose now and how some if it could well be in the wrong hands already.

 

Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs (2005, PBS, 150 min) was an important documentary summarizing the recent history of the conflict, with a lot of coverage of the suicide bombers and the escalation since 2000. For a time, Yasser Arafat was portrayed as the ultimate terrorist. In 2005 Israel would cede Gaza (evicting its own settlers) in the hopes that the United States would recognize permanent settlements on the West Bank. Of course, the tragic history is that Israel took land from Palestinians by force to create the settlements earlier in the 20th Century at various times, a source of great shame for individual Palestinians, and justification (or excuse) for suicide bombings as well as an invitation for Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric (Hamas is the main terror organization in the region). I recall the talks in 1978 between Begin and Sadat at Camp David, sponsored by Jimmy Carter.  

 

The War Within (2005, Magnolia/HDNet, dir. Joseph Castelo, wr. Ayed Akhtar, sug. PG-13, 90 min) dramatizes the assembly of a sleeper cell in Jersey City, NJ, and its execution of a suicide bomber attack at Grand Central Station in New York City at 9 AM on a weekday morning. Hassan (Ayad Akhtar) has entered the country on a freighter (he has been tortured in the past, and has scars to show it), presumably at the port of Bayonne. He is an explosives expert. He begins to have a crisis of conscience as he works within the cell. Nevertheless, the plan comes off. The men tape the equipment to themselves, button up their shirts and put on suits. The payoff at the movie rather made me mad. At the exact moment of the attack, the screen goes blank and mute. That is to say, with suicide, there is nothing: no afterlife, no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no virgins. Then the sunny day comes back and you see Manhattan, minus the twin towers, with the sound of police and fire. Then you see the news coverage but you never see the actual carnage up close. The film does rehearse the idea of jihad as a personal struggle, and the idea that Americans are living off of the forbidden fruits of their government’s policies in Muslim lands. It also highlights the psychological drive to impose one’s idea of virtue on others. See link to unrelated CNN documentary by this name below.

 

WTC View (aka “World Trade Center View; do not confuse with the Paramount/Oliver Stone film released in 2006, below”, 2005, Robert Ahrens, dir. Brian Sloan, in HD Video, rec PG-13, a few passages of strong languate, 102 min) seems to be the first film that combines 9/11 with GLBT issues. An appealing young photographer Eric (Michael Urie) with a $2000 per month apartment in SoHo places an ad for a roommate on Sept. 10, 2001. The film shows various panels and photographs of the 9/11 event and aftermath. Then Eric starts receiving visitors in his apartment, where the entire film takes place, much as if it were a stage play, somewhat of the Tennessee Williams vintage. An immediate irony is that he smokes, while fighting the hydrogen sulfide fumes from the catastrophe site a few blocks to the south. Gradually we learn of his and his visitor’s emotions about 9/11, and we learn that he lost his partner, who was in one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11. At one point Eric shares the idea that he has thought of joining the Air Force out of patriotism (and presumably bucking “don’t ask don’t tell”).  Michael Linstroth plays a Republican campaigner, who was to work 9/11 on prinary day. A very “All American” looking stockbroker or bond trader Alex (Nick Pontenzieri), still in his business suit, visits him late at night, and tells him how he got out of Tower 1 before it collapsed. The encounter becomes emotional, and they become intimate, although apparently they don’t actually have sex. Alex seems to be a great role model character. Then an NYU student (Jay Gillespie) visits, and watches Eric have a near breakdown when the power goes out. The student has a great line, "better crazy than cynical." The student also compares his experience of watching the airline above him to a scene from the movie "Pearl Harbor" when boys playing stickball see the Jap planes. This movie was a fairly straightforward adaptation from the director's stage play. The DVD interviews the characters for what experienced personally on 9/11 and discusses the adaptation.

 

Protocols of Zion (2005, ThinkFilm, dir. Marc Levin, 91 min, PG) is a documentary about a particular literary focus in anti-Semitism: the collection “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which supposedly map out a Zionist plan to conquer the world with a Chosen People. It is understandable that some people could interpret some of the Old Testament (such as the Exodus) this way. Some of the film focuses around Ground Zero for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center (pretty much as would be visible in the film above!), as various visitors are interviewed. A segment is shown documenting the apparent videotaping of the 9/11 attacks by some Jews from various parking lots and apartment buildings around Weehawken, N.J., as if Israeli intelligence knew about the attacks in advance. This had been reported in 2003 by ABC “20/20” and this curious incident could well have been more thoroughly presented. The poster for the film shows the Twin Towers as stacks of books, one of them burning. Other segments in the film show some extreme right wing Aryan nation types, such as one such “elder” in West Virginia, who displays his reasoning of non sequitirs when interviewed.  Teresa Wliz has a story about this film on page N3 of The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2005, “Chief of ‘Protocols” On the Trail of Hate: Filmmaker Follows Anti-Semitism Into Its Darkest Corners in New Documentary.”

 

There is an Associated Press/Pawtucket Times story by Ramesh Santanam, “Studios Hope U.S. Ready for 9/11 movies,” at http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/S/SEPT_11_MOVIES?SITE=RIPAW&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

One of these films will be “Reign O’er Me” and another is “Flight 93.” 

 

For a response to these reviews from a reader in the Netherlands, Christ Poirot, go to this link.

 

United 93 (2006, Universal/Working Title/Studio Canal, dir. Paul Greengrass, R, 111 min, USA/UK/France) is an almost real-time reenactment of the tragic morning through the Shanksville, PA crash. Most of the time the film deals with the air traffic control towers, the Air Force, and the passengers, crew and hijackers on Flight 93 itself. Unlike the two television films above, the film does not go into detail about who the passengers are or their cell phone interactions with their families (which are never shown, as they are in home scenes in the other films). The Twin Towers are shown burning on a jumbotron from CNN in a Newark Air Traffic Control room (the South Tower hit is shown). The actors are relatively unknown (Cheyenne Jackson plays Mark Bingham).  The film was given a title with “United” in it to distinguish it from other films, but United Airlines had no connection with making the film (according to a disclaimer in the end credits; Universal presented its opening trademark without the Wagnerian musical fanfare). The opening scene shows one of the men shaving his crotch (from behind, that is) but not his chest or appendages, as is suggested in the television films (news outlets reported after the attacks that religious manuals instructed the body shaving). The men are always praying in Arabic (the attack starts with “Allah Akbar!”), even when committing violent acts against passengers and crew. This film, in comparison to the others, leaves a strong impression of an almost mechanical, brainwashed religious Islamic conviction among the hijackers, and leaves the impression that they do not experience their acts at any intellectual level. Religious practice (not necessarily synonymous with faith) has a way of encapuslating the hijackers' access to emotion and meaning. The air traffic controllers and military and flight crew only gradually realize the assymetry of the attackers. At the end, after the passengers organize their counterattack, the plane nosedives toward the stripmine ground, and the screen goes blank. Death brings nothingness, no existence at all.

 

I saw this film in a large auditorium in Arlington, VA (the film has full Panavision widescreen format), and it was about half full. The audience was quiet, but not shaken. I could feel my own blood pressure rise (I wanted an Atenolol tablet) as it started, since I knew what would happen. I do remember that day well, on a company team-building exercise on a river boat in Minnesota, and we did not cancel. We got no details during the day, and speculated on all kinds of theories, as the Shanksville crash had just happened when we boarded. That evening I saw an IFP screening of L.I.E. at the Lagoon Theater in Minneapolis, with the director there, stranded for three days. In my experience, it is time to start presenting this on the big screen. I can envision recreating what may have happened in the Pentagon, or even the idea of phone calls between persons in the twin towers, or even between the towers and the Pentagon, if that could have happened.

 

I Missed Flight 93 is a History Channel episode (July 4, 2006) about five persons who, for one reason or another, missed United 93 at the last minute on 9/11. One person lost an uncle on the flight; another was frantically trying to call relatives in California to tell them that he was all right. One was a flight surgeon. The film intercuts the stories of the five passengers with narratives of the events of the day.

 

World Trade Center (Paramount, dir. Oliver Stone, 125 min, PG-13)  Had a movie portraying the strikes on the WTC been made before 2001 (perhaps motivated by the intercepted “Pacific Plot” from 1995 as well as the first WTC bombing in February 1993), the 9/11 tragedy might well have been prevented. It was indeed a failure of imagination. Indeed, it is at least a curious coincidence that the U.S. and Britain announced the discovery of a similar plot involving liquids on planes (resulting in tightening carry on luggage rules) on Aug 10, 2006, one day after this film opened. The actual film is shot flat (in 1.85:1, not anamorphic 2.3) so it looks surprisingly constricted. That is intentional, to portray the claustrophobia of Port Authority police officers John McLoughlin (an acerbic Nicholas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) trapped in the rubble between the two towers. We look and see, and mostly hear what these two policemen see. They see the airplane shadow, but neither actual impact, and they hear the concussions of both towers falling. About thirty minutes of the film deals with them in the rubble, and it is excruciating to watch and ponder, even as Will discovers a loose rod to spring and make noise to attract rescuers. The lives of the New Jersey families are shown in a tinted digital video; so the film has an indie look. Through the families, we see the CNN and NBC coverage, and hear the voices of Aaron Brown and Tom Brokaw. A US Marine (William Mapother) is involved in finding them. My own concept for telling this story, in one of my scripts (“American Epic”) imagines a female soldier in the Pentagon, calling her partner in the South Tower and talking her into getting out just before that Tower falls. There was a bit over a half hour from the second plane impact on the South Tower and the impact at the Pentagon. As compelling as the footage of lower Manhattan sounds (and the aftermath pictures at the end of the film are stunning), an even more dramatic treatment could be (in another film) the train of ambulances through Arlington, VA from the Pentagon on that day, shot from the air.

 

A companion piece seems to be The History Channel’s “The Miracle of Stairway B,” which documents the survival of sixteen firefighters in stairwell in the North Tower even through the collapse. The heard every floor pancake. But the collapse on the outside was more rapid than in the core. 

 

The Learning Channel (TLC) offers the one-hour “Flight 175: As the World Watched”. Yes, the title of this one-hour doc invokes the soap “As the World Turns.” This is a detailed account of the second plane, United Flight 175, to leave Boston and hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 AM. Much detail is given about air traffic control, and John Nance is interviewed. There were cell phone calls from passengers as there were for Flight 93, although not as many.  The collapses of both buildings are shown, including ABC’s of the South Tower, which I saw live from my apartment that morning when I walked back along the Minneapolis Skyway from work to see what was going on. 

 

TLC also offers the one-hour Discovery film “After 9/11: Rebuilding Lives” traces several people (with their families) who escaped from the Twin Towers, including one burn victim, who is shown batting a softball in the last scene.  

 

TLC follows with the two-hour “Camp 9/11: Children of Hope,” as a number of children who lost parents in the attack on the World Trade Center go to a special summer camp upstate, and do team-building wilderness exercises, row, swim, and play softball, and bond.

 

Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America (2006) moved here.

 

 

Three Days in September (2006, Showtime, dir. Joe Halderman, 80 min) is a graphic documentary giving the history of the Chechen attack on a school in Beslan, Russia on Sept. 1, 2004. It is narrated by Julia Roberts (Erin Brokovich) and one of the writers was Peter Van Sant. There is a lot of actual footage, some of it shot by the terrorists themselves and later found by teenagers. 1200 people, most of the them kids, were taken hostage and more than 330 were killed. The attack aimed at getting Putin to pull Russian troops out of Checyna, 30 miles away. Although this is Russia, it was very hot, almost 100 F. Terrorists threatened to mass murder when confiscating cell phones and camcorders. Prisoners wound up drinking urine. This is a graphic film.

 

For an important segment about a terrorist kidnapping by an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines in May 2001, see the NBC Dateline link below.

 

Typhoon (“Taepung”) (2005, Paramount Classics/CJ Entertainment, dir. Kyung-Taek Kwak, South Korea, 124 min, R) puts a lot of diplomatic and violent possibilities together in speculative scenario. A modern day pirate (Dong-Kun Jang), seeking revenge for not having gotten political asylum while in China from South Korea twenty years before, plots a dirty bomb attack on Soeul. He has arranged for sarcophagus material to be diverted from Chernobyl, processed somehow to make its toxicity very long term (it’s not apparent that this is really feasible), and placed in explosive balloons that will be released from a pirated vessel that gets caught in a typhoon. Earlier he had pirated a merchant ship with DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) custody of some critical trigger materials. There is a long subplot involving his loyalty to his older sister, who was kidnapped. There are a lot of exotic locations, such as Bangkok, Singapore, and especially Vladivostock, Russia. There is discussion of a lot of international politics, involving China and Taiwan (which almost really did come to a head in early 2001), and diversion of materials from North Korea to Muslim radicals, a real threat. Loose nuclear waste in Russia is a big problem, as noted with “The Last Best Chance” above, but it is not likely to be diverted from Chernobyl itself; that is potboiler movie plotting.  

 

District B13 (“Banlieue 13”, 2004, Magnolia/Europa, dir. Pierre Morel, 85 min, R) has an undercover cop (Cyrial Raffaelli) and a former thug (David Belle) become a “pseudo martial arts” tag team in the walled-off Muslim ghetto in Paris in 2010, infiltrating the “terrorists” to defuse a neutron bomb. That was the secret weapon from the Carter era. The thug is motivated by filial blood loyalty to his sister, who is trapped with the bomb. There are the all usual roadblocks, including a “Hulk” who has to be tied up. (They could have used Clark Kent, and some of the movie seems like a latter day Smallville episode.) Then there is a confrontation at the bomb site, and a really neat plot twist. The financing for the bomb supposedly came from Saudi Arabia. But did it? It seems like the police have an agenda for the poor neighborhoods, and they will eventually be caught by an undercover sting on videotape. NBC Dateline should have been there. The movie does make good use of the theme of the disenfranchised Muslim neighborhoods in France and other European countries, and makes the point that Europe may be at greater risk from an attack like this than the U.S.  This is a very sharp looking action film, Cinemascope (Technovision), with judicious use of matte backgrounds but some familiar driveways around Charles de Gaulle airport, where I returned a rent car once.

 

The Great New Wonderful (2006, First Independent Pictures/Serenade, dir. Danny Leiner, 87 min, R) is the name of a wedding cake business in Manhattan. On the surface, that is. For the business creates one of five interwoven stories of New York City people who were near the WTC on 9/11 and survived, but have to cope with the shock. I add here that I know people who have been through this and describe the trauma in personal terms. The story takes place in early September 2002, and ends on September 11, 2002, a Wednesday, where I wanted to watch the commemorations, but was invited to a job interview that sounded promising but where the client failed to follow through. The cake decorating leads up to a major wedding that some of the other participants will attend – other than that, the stories weave the way a Robert Altman movie does, or perhaps “Thirteen Conversations about One Thing.” One major point of the film is that the post traumatic stress syndrome suffered by many of the characters leads them to sudden outbursts, or to making socially unacceptable comments about things. For example Emme (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has a young gay man Justin (Jim Parsons) as an assistant, and he is prone to making insensitive remarks around customers (like a particularly light cake is not fattening). When he comments about rich people getting married, she stops the car in midtown Manhattan and orders, “Get out. You’re fired, you faggot!”  Then there are the earnest parents of an obese, asthmatic and hostile child Charley, who gets in trouble at school. At one point, he throws a tantrum when he can't answer a question at a geography bee (an interesting reference to other films about spelling bees). The headmaster, after suggesting sending him away, calls him a monster. There are the two Pakistani’s opening a show, and one of them gets violent exercising security. There is the elevator scene, where it loses power for a few seconds, and someone comments, “We got out alive.” There is one character who is simply interviewed in a lunch canteen by a psychiatrist, or at least a shrink. The movie comes together slowly, and it is only in the last thirty minutes that the viewer realizes that loss of self-control is a major theme. The credits did not mention Dolby Digital, and the music quality sounded substandard.

 

Cavite (2005, Magnolia/Truly Indie/Gorilla, dir. Neill Dala Llana, Ian Gamazon, 80 min, sug. R, USA/Philippines) is reported to have been made for $7000, shot in HD video, cropped for normal widescreen aspect. This is an almost real time thriller that calls to mind Phone Booth, but this time the cell phone is the hooker. Adam, a half-Filipino (Ian Gamazon looks more Caucasian than Asian) working as a security guard in San Diego, gets a phone call from his family about his father’s death, and flies to Taipei and then Manila. So far the movie seems like Global Pursuit. But then, in a moment of carelessness in a men’s room at the airport, he lets someone stuff an envelope with a cell phone into his backpack. Don’t do that at an airport! They always warn you. The caller tells him that his sister and mother are held hostage, and he goes on a “treasure hunt” or scavenger hunt through the slums of Cavite and Manila, all on location, riding pedicarts, going into shanty homes and cock fight tents. At one point he is told to disrobe and bathe, and he refuses. Maybe that was some kind of ritual. His cell phone battery dies, and he wrestles the cell phone from another female passerby. (How did he remember the number?) Finally, he gets instructions to blow up a church. He will not have leave it strapped to himself as a suicide bomber. He will face the moral dilemma, of male protector family loyalty, against doing what he knows is wrong as an individual. But is it real, or is he being tested. The caller constantly calls him a “faggot” and makes references to emasculation, and gradually politicizes the calls with calls for Islamic prayer, Jihad, and complaints against poverty of Muslims. The caller is determined to make an individual take full personal responsibility for the “tainted fruits” of someone else’s (the father’s) political wrong.  But it was his dad that had put the family in peril, not anything he had done in the states, other than not being a radical enough Muslim. He has gotten a girl friend pregnant, who will say she does not want to give birth to a “Muslim.”

 

On Sunday, September 10, 2006 (one day before the fifth “anniversary” of 9/11), ABC will air the film “The Path to 9/11” directed by David L. Cunningham, with Harvey Keitel. The six hour film (is it over two nights?) has been criticized for supposed inaccuracies. Howard Kute, “Clinton Administration Officials Assail ABC’s ‘The Path to 9/11’” The Washington Post, Sept 7, 2006.  ABC does have a disclaimer maintaining that the film is not a docudrama and is not necessarily completely factual. Bill Clinton’s lawyers actually asked ABC to pull the film. It is supposed to be based on the 9/11 commission report. In Washington DC WJLA TV also maintains that the film does not represent its views. 

 

The film (2006, Touchstone/ABC, about 270 min, would probably be PG-13, TV-14) aired the first 2-1/2 hours on Sept. 10 2006) starts with a prequel of the morning of 9/11 and then goes back 8-1/2 years to Feb 26, 2006, a snowy Friday in New York City, when a truck bomb was detonated in a parking garage below the WTC. That sequence is well done, but the film bogs down a bit in tracing the terrorists. The scenes in Pakistan are often shown with yellowish filters. The liquid explosive plot in 1995 of Yousef, to take down planes in the Pacific, is broken up when a terrorist accidentally sets fire to his Manila apartment. The film shifts to the problems in the Clinton administration and FBI Agent John O’Neill, played by Harvey Keitel, who apparently started work on 9/11/2001 and died there. (The story recalls that of Port Authority Security Officer Rescorda, above; they are both on the victims list.)  There is a sequence where administration officials downplay plans to assassinate bin Laden – who has taken over from Yousef as the main villain. President Clinton still sees this as a law and order problem, even as his advisors talk of going to war. That approach at least worked at the border in Washington State in December 1999 as a female customs agent makes a major bust. The bombings in Africa in 1998 are shown, as well as the careless cruise missile strike. The history of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan begins, and it would be good to check with author Sebastian Junger about its accuracy (Massoud). Zawahiri is shown as skeptical of the size of the planned attacks. In the meantime, there is a clip about Clinton and Monica Lewinsky that seems rather irrelevant. The film as shown does not seem to be too unfair to the Clinton crowd, but there was a general inertia in appreciating that this really was a war, although that point comes up. Also starring are Patricia Heaton (as Yemen Ambassasdor Bodine), Dan Lauria (as CIA director George Tenet), Amy Madigan (as Patricia Carver), and Stephen Root (as David Clark), and Shlrley Douglas (as secretary of state Madeline Albright). 

 

The second half (interrupted by President Bush’s address) picks up speed and is much more in Oliver Stone style. The bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000 leads to a confrontation with a sassy Ambassador Bodine, who has to defend the political arrangements that allow the Bin Laden family to do half the business in Yemen. (Many ordinary people from that part of the world have met members of that family, including someone known to me – “three degrees of separation”.) Pretty soon the warning signs and chatter accumulate. Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested in a grungy Minneapolis apartment, and Coleen Rowley, who apparently plays herself (she retired in 2004) is upset when the FBI cannot pass on the information from his laptop. (I believe that I met Rowley on the Skyway at a coffee bar when I was living in downtown Minneapolis 1997-2003.) Massoud is assassinated in a bombing in Afghanistan on Sept. 9, and there is suspicion that this is the beginning of the end. The last forty minutes recreate that morning more effectively than was done in either of the two major theatrical releases this year. O’Neill has gone to work in the South Tower, and tries to scuttle the people out of the building in the 17 minutes before it is hit, although there are many reports that people were told not to leave. He dies when he is trying to go back in to rescue people when the building implodes.  

 

The movie was followed with a special segment of ABC Primetime Live. 

 

A Mighty Heart (2007, Paramount Vantage, dir. Michael Winterbottom, book (A Mighty Heart: The Inside Story of the Al Qaeda Kidnapping of Danny Pearl) by Marianne Pearl, 100 min, R, France/UK). This film tells the story of the abduction and assassination ot Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman), told largely from the point of view of his pregnant wife Marianne. The on location shots and atmosphere in Karachi are breathtaking. For more details, see

Blogger entry: http://billsmoviereviews.blogspot.com/2007/06/mighty-heart-film-about-daniel-pearl.html

 

Right at your Door (2007, Roadside Attractions / Lionsgate / Thousand Words, dir./wr. Chris Gorak, 93 min, R) First, I wonder why the theatrical distribution in the USA is from the Roadside brand, rather than Lions Gate films, which normally distributes controversial films like this. Brad and Lexi (Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack) live in a bungalow a overlooking downtown LA. Brad is an unemployed musician who lives off Mary. He looks energetic and 35-ish enough, but if you look closely he is already headed downhill physically. Suddenly, after Mary goes to work, there is a radio announcement that simultaneous bombs have been detonated across LA. The movie takes over trying to simulate the harried, almost real time reaction of a man to a sudden catastrophe. The shots, mainly in muted colors and sometimes almost black and white, move quickly and the radio humdrum is confusing. But soon word comes that these were dirty bombs, but apparently not radiological, but bioterror. People are ordered to stay in their homes and secure themselves with Tom Ridge’s duct tape (remember that, as a response to orange or red terror threat level alerts?), which Brad does. In the end, that isn’t enough. The agent is never identified. They talk about antibiotics, but it can’t be anthrax, which is not contagious (although the spores are). It seems to be a bizarre virus. But soon it is snowing dust, and the house, lawn and shrubbery are covered with tan snow. Lexi comes back, and he has to keep her out. Finally, he builds a barrier inside the house, and she lives in part of it.  A neighboring workman and little boy also come. The authorities, in protective gear, come and tag the house red. Pretty soon it appears that a lot of homebodies will be exterminated.

 

The film is very hard to watch. I don’t think that the “science” is valid, but the movie does demonstrate how terrorists could turn the government on its own people, much more so than has happened because of 9/11. 

 

The Cloud (2006, “Die Wolke”, Concorde, dir. Gregor Schnitzler, script Jane Ainscough, 115 min, sug PG-13). Two teen lovers struggle to survive in Germany after a nuclear power plant accident has killed 38000 people. The horror comes on as they “evacuate/” Blogger discussion. 

 

Saint of 9/11 (2007, Netflix / Equality Forum, dir. Glenn Holsten, 91 min) is a biography of Franciscan Priest Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain in the New York City Fire Department and killed on 9/11 when the South Tower collapsed, doing his job of attending to the needs of firemen. The beginning and end of the film review his sacrifice that day, and show footage right after 9/11 that may never have been seen. The middle part of the film covers his life, his recovery from alcoholism, his Irish roots, and then his life as a gay man, first accidentally “outed” at an event that drove another priest away, and then as a discrete priest during the AIDS epidemic, which the film covers from the days of its being called GRID in the beginning. He ministered to one victim who had a testicle and eye removed, and the comment is made that in “those days” it was thought one had to remove body parts. There is some pretty explicit discussion of Kaposi’s Sarcoma. The fears of AIDS are reviewed, as are the ideas that you couldn’t be out in the straight world of police and fire work then (just as in the military). Later, the Mychal Judge Act allowed police officers and firemen to name beneficiaries (including domestic partners) should these emergency warriors die in the line of duty. This may be the first film to cover both 9/11 and the AIDS epidemic in narrative historical detail.

 

The Kingdom (2007, Universal / Relativity / ThinkFilm, dir. Michael Berg, story and wr. Matthew Michael Carnahan, 110 min, R). This action film starts out by recapping the important of Saudi Arabia as a source of oil and of the role of the 15 hijackers from Saudi Arabia on 9/11, which it shows in animation. The film quickly moves to a recreation of a Western compound in Riyadh (some of it filmed in Phoenix), with employees and kids playing softball, not hitting the ball too far. Soon they are being picked off by snipers, and then there are some explosions, including a huge blast resembling the Khobar Towers explosion in 1995 (or even Oklahoma City).  The FBI sends a secret team headed by Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) to Saudi Arabia to investigate, and it first must win the support of the locals who want to handle this. There are some shots at Saudi culture, such as a line about how they don’t like to do manual labor. Gradually, the team falls into a deadly trap. The film has graphic violence, both in a highway ambush and in urban fighting. Riyadh is shown in the background, apparently with a matte painting or similar technique, so the film appears real (the overseas filming was actually done in Abu Dhabi). When I saw it at Regal in Arlington, there was a large audience of people who knew the writer and applauded.  

 

Rendition (2007, New Line / Level 1), dir. Gavin Hood, wr. Kelley Sane, 120 min, R). An “extraordinary rendition” is the taking of a terrorism suspect out of the country by our CIA in order to extract information by torture. There is a DC scene where CIA director Corrine (Meryl Streep – she is still a devil but she hardly wears any prada here) claims that the practice has prevented at least one catastrophic WMD attack. (I think anonymous tips sent to amateurs may be more likely to accomplish this.) One cannot judge from a fictitious story how true this is to life, but the story certainly poses moral questions, most of all through the young CIA officer Douglas Freeman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s Freeman’s – and even Gyllenhaal’s personality and presence – that provide the riddle. Gyllenhaal in this movie is himself a paradox, a gentle (“Moonlight Mile”, “Donnie Darko”), even geeky man whom we first see in a hot hotel room in Morocco (the country is unnamed, but that’s where they filmed it), with hairy chest and overwhelming build. (The Dutch are the world’s tallest people, too.) He is soft spoken and quiet most of the time, always analyzing what he is sent overseas to observe, and then suddenly he jumps in, like a good substitute teacher, and intervenes. At one point he pretends to choke suspect Anwar (Omar Metwally) to get him to “explain” the cell phone calls he got in Capetown, South Africa (the first scene). Later, he Googles (those are his words in the script) and find that the information extracted from him was indeed made up under duress, and arranges his clandestine release, just as new information may be surfacing after the second suicide bomber attack (a bit bifurcated in execution this time) in the movie. You wonder, though, why Freeman took this job; he ought to be working for Google designing the next generation of knowledge management. Or maybe he should be a worldwide journalist like Anderson Cooper – because he always watches everything like a cat. There is a cell phone call, where he looks over a North African bazaar, where he tells Corrine, “I just watched my first torture.” The audience laughed. It really did. That’s about the only funny line in the movie. Oh, maybe when Freeman says “I like pie charts” after talking about Google. You get the impression that Gyllenhaal himself likes pie charts.

 

There is a lot of plotting here. Anwar has tried to fly home, when he is whisked away from Dulles, and deleted from the flight register to hide his CIA kidnapping. His pregnant wife (Reese Witherspoon) desperately tries to find out what happened, and tracks a reporter (Peter Sarsgaard, who gave a similar performance in “Shattered Glass”). The torture scenes here are just disgusting (with the waterboarding, electric cattle prodding and tape ripping) and harrowing, with none of the homoeroticism of “Midnight Express”.  

 

In the Name of God (“Khuda ke liye”, 2007, Shobar / Geo, dir. Shoab Mansoor, 167 min, Pakistan / UK, Urdu and English w subtitles, sug. R) is an epic story of two musician brothers in Pakistan on separate paths meeting linked fates because of 9/11. Blogger review.

 

Brick Lane (2008, Sony Pictures Classics / Film4, dir. Sarah Gavron, novel by Monica Ali, 100 min, PG-13, UK/India)  A young woman is sent from Bangladesh to London for an arranged marriage, gets involved with a younger man, and then watches her family take the heat against Muslims after 9/11. Blogger discussion.

 

Lions for Lambs (2007, MGM / United Artists, dir. Robert Redford, 88 min, R) is Tom Cruise Mapother ‘s first film since taking over UA, and presents three parallel threads of story, one involving two Rangers pinned down by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, another with a Senator (played by Cruise himself) briefing a journalist about new aggressive anti-terror foreign policy, and a third with a conservative political science professor (Robert Redford) trying to motivate a gifted but delicate-looking college student Todd Hayed (Andrew Garfield) essentially to think about taking a risk and serving his country. A flashback sequences presents a creative proposal for nearly mandatory universal national service. There is a lot of basic conservative moralizing about sharing burdens and “paying your dues.” There is more on blogger here.

 

PU-239: The Half Life of Timofey Berezin (2006, Picturehouse / HBO / Beacon, dir. Scott C. Burns, story by Ken Kalfus, UK/Romania, R) is a bit like “Last Best Hope” meets “Eastern Promises.” A worker Timofey (Paddy Considine) at nuclear facility is contaminated, and the “privatized company” blames him and refuses to compensate him. He believes that he will die and that he is even dangerous to his family. There are touching scenes that he will not be able to provide for his wife and son. He then appears to steal weapons grade plutonium (HBO writeup) and then tries to sell it on the Russian black market, with a confrontation in a disco.  There is a chilling discussion about how it could be fashioned into a nuclear weapon and used in Afghanistan (so the script says) or anywhere. Timofey shows his hands, which look scarred from the injury, and walks around with the stolen material under his shirt, which is ripe for opening in a disco, it seems. That should be a giveaway. I think the reality scenario of stealing of loose fissionable material is going to be much less transparent than this film makes it look. In the end, his wife (Radha Mitchell) is in on the scheme. Another warning: some Russian crack cocaine can be just as deadly.

 

Where in the WORLD is Osama bin Laden (2008, The Weinstein Company, dir. Morgan Spurlock, 93 min, PG-13). The Supersize guy goes on a worldwide odyssey to hunt for OBL, and offers witty commentary on what is wrong with American policy now. Blogger.

 

Traitor (2008, Overture, dir. Jeffrey Nachmanoff, story by Steve Martin, 110 min, PG-13, Canada/UK) features Don Cheadle, as a terrorist and possible double agent, matched up with Guy Pearce as the FBI agent in a worldwide chase to stop a Thanksgiving day attack in 50 cross-country busses. Blogger discussion.

 

Frozen River (2008, Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Courtney Hunt, 97 min, PG-13) is a tight thriller involving a white and tribal woman drawn into smuggling illegal aliens across a frozen river along the Canadian border, with some ironic twists indeed. Blogger discussion.

 

Clandestinos (2007, TLA, dir. Antonio Hens, Spain / Euskara, 82 min) A gay teen (Israel Rodriques) breaks out of a Spanish prison and takes on a Muslim friend, and tries to please his mentor that he is ready for terrorism. The film suggests that Basque separatism could combine with Al Qaeda. Blogger. 

 

102 Minutes that Changed America (2008, History Channel) is a quasi-real time enactment from amateur and journalist’s video of the events in New York City on 9/11.  Blogger.

 

9/11: Science and Conspiracy (2009, NatGeo) and “Loose Change: 9/11, An American Coup” dir. Dylan Avery. Blogger.

 

Incendiary (2008, ThinkFilm/Optimum/FilmFour, dir. Sharon Maguire, UK, 100 min, R). Blogger.   An adulterous woman loses a policeman husband and son in a soccer stadium bombing and winds up writing Osama bin Laden!

 

Gomorrah (2008, IFC, dir. Mateo Garrone, book by Roberto Saviano, 137 min, R, Italty) layered story about Camorra crime family said to be behind rebuilding the 9/11 WTC towers. Blogger.

 

The Underwear Bomber: The Detroit Bomb Plot (2010, Discovery). About the Christmas day attempt on flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ; showed the interview with Jasper Schuringa, who tackled him; consider info on how watch lists and the NCTC work. Blogger  .

 

Remember Me (2010, Summit, dir. Allen Coulter, 113 min, PG-13). A young man’s life heads toward being in the WTC on 9/11 as he works out an interlocking cycle of family tragedy,  Robert Pattinson.  Blogger.

 

 The Oath (2010, Zeitgeist/PBS POV, dir. Laura Poitras). Two brothers in law who drove for Osama bin Laden face justice in Yemen and Guantanamo; stories of Salim Hamdan and Abu Jandal. Blogger

 

Countdown to Zero (2010, Magnolia/Participant, dir. Lucy Walker, 91 min) History of nuclear weapons; terror threat and accident launch on warning threat. Blogger.

 

Making of (2006, Koch Lorber/Tribeca, dir. Nouri Bouzid, Tunisia, R, in Arabic) A break dancer is groomed, under pressure, into becoming a suicide bomber. Blogger.

 

Day Night Day Night (2006, TWC/IFC, dir. Julia Loktev, 90 min, R). A female suicide bomber prepares for her end during her last two days. Blogger.

 

My Trip to Al Qaeda (2010, HBO, dir. Alex Gibney, wr. Lawrence Wright, 87 min) A professor recounts the history of Al Qaeda and his own experience contacting radical Islam. Blogger.

 

September Tapes (2004, First Look, dir. Christian Johnston). A reporter goes to Afghanistan after losing his wife on 9/11. Blogger.

 

 

 

Related reviews:  Collateral Damage; Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11; Fahrenhype 9/11; book by Graham Allison: Nuclear Terror with Stephen Flynn: America the Vulnerable, discussed on “CNN Presents” on 9/12/2004; Lars von Trier’s Epidemic; The Siege; Team America: World Police ;  Paradise Now ;  25th Hour ; (North Korea) Undercover in the Secret State; Submission  books: Judith Miller’s Germs; Richard Preston’s Hot Zone;  Outbreak (film, with Robin Cook’s Virus); Outbreak (NBC Dateline show)  The Stand   One Day in September; Munich   NBC Dateline “Deliver Us From Evil  CNN: In the Footsteps of bin Laden; Giuliani Time   The Road to Guantanamo with play: Guantanamo: Honor Bound; The War Tapes; Islam: What the West Needs to Know  Shortbus  Casino Royale (2006; has a major theory) Ever Again; Inside American Power: Inside the Pentagon;   Civic Duty;  book: Mark Bingham: Hero of Flight 93   Reign Over Me   My 9/11   Fitna   CNN: The War Within    Southland Tales     Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America; Pandemic (Hallmark)  Book: (novel) Daniel Kalla: Pandemic    Taxi to the Dark Side    True Lies   Jericho (TV series)   Vantage Point   Running Toward Danger   The Al Qaeda Files    Dateline: Inside the Cell Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West; American Al Qaeda

 

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