UK Release Date: 19th October 2018
Runtime: 128 minutes
Director: Michael Moore
Writer: Michael Moore
Starring: Michael Moore
Synopsis: More than a decade after he savaged the Bush regime in Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore takes a look at the circumstances that led to the rise of Donald Trump and the structures around him.
“How the fuck did this happen?” asks a clearly irate Michael Moore at the beginning of his new documentary Fahrenheit 11/9 – a reference to the date of Donald Trump’s election victory, as well as Moore’s own documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which directed his ire at the George W Bush regime. But it would be wrong to say that this film is Moore’s Trump documentary. In fact, it’s more generally about the nonsensical and broken state of American politics in 2018.
Trump is the obvious jumping-off point for such an exploration, but Moore seems as if he’s on slightly shaky ground when he’s discussing the orange-haired POTUS. Early on, Moore admits his own previous relationship with Trump – they shared a congenial talk show sofa – as well as the involvement of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and alt-right figurehead Steve Bannon in his previous films and a cosy live stream he carried out with future Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway just days before the election. Moore points these problems out, but never really addresses the issues they inherently raise about his own complicity in the political system.
Moore is much more confident and nears his polemical best when he’s dealing with issues very close to his heart. The segment of Fahrenheit 11/9 that focuses on the genuinely shocking water crisis in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, shines the spotlight on an astonishing abuse of power that has condemned a generation to lead poisoning. Elsewhere, he returns to gun control – almost two decades after his magnum opus Bowling For Columbine – in order to discuss the Parkland school shooting and the enormously inspiring campaigning carried out by a group of survivors. These segments of the movie are fiercely emotional, with campaigner Emma González emerging as the doc’s real star.
But it’s Trump that looms largest throughout, treated as an unseen force of evil for the first few minutes and explicitly compared to Hitler in an inflammatory – and probably unnecessary – late flourish. When a prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials breaks down in tears as he discusses the state of America, it’s a potent and affecting summation of just how far down the rabbit hole America has disappeared. A historian’s concern that America has decided to “trade real freedom for fake safety” lands equally hard.
This only holds water, though, for those already on board with Moore’s argument. There’s little in Fahrenheit 11/9 that seems likely to change minds and it will be easy for Trump acolytes to dismiss the film as part of the ‘fake news’ whirlwind. However, for those on Moore’s side of the political argument, this is one of his most heart-breaking and powerful works. Some of his self-satisfied stunts fall flat, as always, but his rage is well-placed and directed with a fair amount of righteous precision.
Pop or Poop?
The rise of Donald Trump is ripe for the sort of polemical analysis that made Michael Moore’s name in Hollywood, and Fahrenheit 11/9 works as an argument of searing anger. It contains some of the director’s annoying tics, as well as a lack of self-examination, but it trades in righteous fury and does so with aplomb and emotion behind it. Few minds will be changed, but Moore has always elected to preach to the converted. When he does it this well, it’s tough to complain about that approach.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.