Since 9/11, Hollywood has tried to tackle the war on terror with
mixed results. Lions
for Lambs marks the latest attempt, and as the movie goes down
in box office flames during its opening week, I thought it might be
interesting to take a look at some others that, like it, failed to
resonate with our post-9/11 world along with those that succeeded in
making us at least consider our changing times.
There will likely never be another movie about 9/11 as good as or as
powerful as Paul Greengrass' tribute to the men and women who became
heroes on United 93. The fact that Greengrass didn't win a
Best Director Oscar for his work should give you yet another reason to
never tune into the Academy Awards again.
American Dreamz might work as a satire of American Idol,
but its attempt to also satirize George Dubya and the current war on
terror backfired despite some very good intentions. I'm just not
comfortable laughing at suicide bombers yet, and I'm not sure if I'll
ever be. But, maybe that's just me...
This is a simple story of a father so afraid of telling his two
daughters that their mother was killed in Iraq that he instead takes
them to their favorite theme park to break the news. It's that simple.
No politics (well, not much). Just the pain of those left behind.
Valley of Elah
Audiences failed to react to In the Valley of Elah, while
most critics cited it as being as melodramatically underhanded and
manipulative as Paul Haggis' last movie, Crash, but I
remain an adamant defender of it. The movie's final shot, of an upside
down US flag -- a distress call to the world that we're lost and
without hope -- will remain one of the most powerful denouncements of
the current presidential course I've ever seen.
This might not seem like an obvious pick to you, but the movie
adaptation of V for Vendetta only exists because 9/11 made
its story more topical than ever. The movie also manages to ask us to
question our definition of terrorism in the face of tyranny (this turns
out to be a sick trick for those who expected a straightforward
super-hero movie) which makes it one of the most subversive, big-studio
movies of the new millennium.
of the Brave
Four soldiers return home from Iraq and must deal with the physical and
mental scars their tour left them with. Sounds like powerful stuff,
except director Irwin Winkler, who is about as subtle behind a camera
as an elephant would be at subterfuge, turns the tragedy into glossy
Hollywood melodrama like he did with Life as a House. Oh, and
he hired 50 Cent as one of the four soldiers. One wonders if he
envisioned it as a comedy?
Though well-intentioned, Rendition's
multiple storylines never gel together and, worse, the depiction of the
actual act of extraordinary rendition – illegally removing US residents
to foreign countries to be “questioned” (read: tortured) – fails to
capture the terror one would expect from such an experience. The
torture sequences in Three Kings
Royale are infinitely more grueling.
Surprisingly, World Trade Center is one of the least
political, or message-y movies conspiracy-theorist Oliver Stone has
ever made. It doesn't quite make us reconsider our post-9/11 world, but
it does make us stop and remember the heroes of 9/11.
Whether you agree with his politics or not, Michael Moore's
faux-documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a scathing indictment of
the Bush administration's war on terror that got millions around the
world talking and was probably a large factor in just how close Senator
John Kerry came to beating our President in 2004. If someone ever says
to you that movies can't change the world; this should be the movie you
cite as evidence of why they're wrong.