Post-9/11 Movies: The Hits and Misses

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.

United

93

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.

Grade: A+

American

Dreamz

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...

Grade: D+

Grace

Is Gone

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.

Grade: A-

In the

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.

Grade: B

V

for Vendetta

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.

Grade: A

Home

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?

Grade: D-

Rendition

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

and Casino

Royale are infinitely more grueling.

Grade: C

World Trade

Center

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.

Grade: B

Fahrenheit

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.

Grade: A+