The four-star grade is pretty random. As a film, Fahrenheit 9/11 has its flaws, but as a 2004 event, it's more important than any other movie released in 2004. Sure, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is better -- so is Spider-Man 2 -- but they have a very loose relationship with time. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a film that you need to see now. Not because the critics say so, but because it's a 2 hour collection of the questions that you should be asking as an important November election approaches.
Moore's film has been criticized for its biased outlook and lack of conclusions, but those critics have approached the film from the wrong angle. Michael Moore has made Fahrenheit 9/11 in the fire, so to speak. Without the benefit of hindsight, he has jumped into the fray and put together a film that asks the questions that should not be swept under the rug. Moore isn't interested in conclusions so much as he is interested in exercising the freedoms that we love and fight to protect.
Moore's humor sometimes gets in his own way. The gags in the first half of the film seem trite and useless towards the end when Moore talks with Lila Lipscomb, a war-supporting mother from Flint, MI who has her views turned upside down when her son dies in combat in Iraq. Moore's footage of government officials off-camera present a stark contrast to their staunch, "freedom loving" television presence. Still, Moore's jokes about Bush's frequent vacationing and other faults seem petty next to his stronger, moving material.
The climactic moment of the film comes when Lipscomb tells Moore, "I thought I knew, but I didn't know." Like Lipscomb's realization, Moore's film is concerned with asking the questions that have been lost amidst all of the talk of color-coded threat levels and freedom-hating terrorists. Moore doesn't come to conclusions because he doesn't have any. Moore himself has said that the film is more of an Op/Ed Piece than a Documentary. Asking Moore to draw conclusions on a presidency and war that are ongoing is unfair. Moore opts to craft an entertaining, if unbalanced, look at Bush's presidency and war on terrorism, presenting a portrait that is not as steadfast and strong as some media outlets would lead you to believe.
Moore's film has other problems aside from its humor issues. Moore also loses focus when he asks Senators to enlist their sons in the Army. The scene is a funny one at first, but ultimately undermines the efforts of those who voluntarily chose to enter the army. Moore hits the mark before that scene when he follows around Marine recruiters who, without shame, look to enlist the poor and uneducated young adults of America. Ultimately, the film is more focused and direct when Moore is narrating events off-camera.
Fahrenheit 9/11 may be irrelevant in five years. If we're fortunate, maybe it will be irrelevant in one. For politically active viewers, a lot of the information won't be new, but Moore's voice is an important and strong one, which makes Fahrenheit 9/11 a possible factor in the November elections.
Moore borrowed the film's title from Fahrenheit 451 because he says that Fahrenheit 9/11 is the temperature at which freedom burns. That may be true about the film's content, but as a whole, Fahrenheit 9/11 provokes the right kind of national pride, as well as hope that freedom won't burn for much longer.