[posted by Justin Levine]
[UPDATE FROM PATTERICO: Note to leftists coming here from Think Progress, Glenn Greenwald, FireDogLake, etc. — Justin Levine, who wrote this post, is the producer of the highest-rated morning talk-radio show in Los Angeles. That, and not his recently begun guest-blogging stint with this blog, is why he got to see an advance screening of “The Path to 9/11.”]
I have been fortunate enough to see an advance showing of The Path to 9/11 – due to air in 2 parts on ABC on 9/10 & 9/11 respectively.
For those who have been asking for a clear historical account of the build-up to the 9/11 disaster, free of political spin, politically correct whitewashing and partisan wrangling – I can say wholeheartedly that this is the film that you have been waiting for.
“The Path To 9/11” is astonishing.
It is an amazing achievement on many levels. It is flat-out one of the best made-for-television movies seen in decades. The only thing that would keep this movie from theatrical distribution is its nearly 5-hour running time (split over two days in this instance). Forget CNN’s “replay” broadcast from 9/11 – Trust me and mark your calendars to watch ABC these nights.
The Clinton administration will likely go
ballistic over this film. (Perhaps why ABC isn’t pushing it at as much as they should be??) It does not have a “partisan” feel to it by any means. The Bush administation comes in for some criticism (Condi Rice in particular comes off rather poorly), but that is nothing compared to the depiction of Sandy Berger and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. I doubt that they will be able to show their faces in public after this (and also helps to explain why Berger was so eager to try to illegally remove classified documents from the archives before his Senate testimony on the 9/11 events). If Bill Clinton’s current purpose in life is to solidify a positive “legacy” for his time in office, this film has the potential to be his biggest hurdle to overcome yet.
But the film is not just about the past Presidential administartions, it also justly skewers the mentality of the State Department and lays out viscerally powerful arguments in favor of the Patriot Act and airport profiling.
I have no doubt that this film has taken some historical liberties as any film is apt to do. It freely admits that some of the characters are “composites” of several people (I suspect Donnie Wahlberg’s CIA character for instance) and that certain timelines are conflated for the purposes of storytelling. Does it represent “the Truth”? Well…I’d argue that it is just as “truthful” as the report from the bipartisan Comission on 9/11 that the film is largely based on. It never claimed to be the last word on the issue, and neither does this. But that doesn’t mean that people will be able to dismiss it easily.
CAIR and the usual “Islamic civil rights” crowd are also likely to burst a neck artery over this one. “The Path To 9/11” shows how fanatics have managed to thouroughly infect pockets of the Islamic body-politic throughout the world. At the same time, the terrorists are not depicted as mere one-dimentional caricatures (which ought to make CAIR’s P.C. rantings all the more difficult to sustain).
Ultimately, “Path” does not try to depict past “blame”; its ultimate goal is to push us forward towards more constructive policies in fighting the war on terror. That is why its underlying criticism becomes all the more powerful. Nobody will be able to dismiss this as a “partisan smear job.”
It gives a great insight into how our conter-intelligence agencies work (to some extent, even better than the recent Tom Clancy or Jason Bourne films).
The casting of this film is amazingly spot-on.
Harvey Keitel gives his best performance in years as FBI agent John O’Neill. Donnie Wahlberg gives the performance of his career as a sympathetic CIA field operative named “Kirk”.
But even more impressive was the wide array of Arabic and Asian actors in this film (especially Mido Hamada who plays the leader of the Afghan Northern Alliance. This film ought to get him some steady acting work in America if he wants it.). They all flesh out their characters perfectly. They all manage to thread the needle in portraying fanatics – but not coming across as out-of-control crazed loons. They even manage to convey that “look” in the eyes of fanatics that you recognize when you see it, but are unable to describe it in any real fashion.
Usually, the acting for television films isn’t quite up to par. But here, I only noted one brief “Hollywood acting” moment involving a female CIA agent who has a crying fit while delivering a speech about how they missed the chance to get Bin Laden. But it quickly passes and doesn’t take you out of the film at all.
Also, I should add that I managed to see a copy of this film without commercial interruptions. Based on the fade-outs, there does seem to be one commercial break that is particularly poorly timed. It comes right as Agent O’Neill (Keitel) realizes that the first WTC building is abut to collapse. Then it cuts to commercial, and returns to footage of the building collapsing. Ugh!!! If I’m right about the timing of that particular commercial break, it will surely take away the power of Keitel’s final scene unfortuantely. (And by the way – I’m not giving away any secrets here. The whole film is based on the public record of the 9/11 commission. We all know what happened in this regard.)
I can’t remember ever wanting to shake the hand of writer and director of a made-for-TV movie before, but that’s what I want to do now. To David L. Cunningham (director) and Cyrus Nowrasteh (write): “Thank you!”
Justin the television critic says: 4-stars; Two Thumbs Up; A+; 10 out of 10.
“The Path To 9/11″…Don’t miss it.
[Update]: Well that didn’t take long. Word is spreading, and the fallout over this movie has already started – primarily by people who haven’t seen it yet –
ABC Should not air “The Path to 9/11.” The TV MiniSeries was produced by a right-wing nut who blames the Clinton administration for 9/11, when clearly the Bush administration is to blame. ABC should be ashamed of itself for pandering to the right wing nuts.
This is of course a gushing review of what sounds like an incredibly biased upcoming ABC miniseries called “The Path to 9/11.” I’m not gonna be a Dope of a Pope on a Rope and go condemn a film before I see it (like Catholics do with everything that remotely criticizes their mega-cult), but I do smell a rat.
The Director himself is now also coming under fire.
I have not seen the program, but all I have read has been on right wing websites. THe same review, posted over, and over, and over again. If your “dramatization” is in fact balanced, then why is there no presence from the left?
Director Cunnigham correctly points out that this is not a “right wing agenda movie”. It in fact bashes the Bush administration in a number of ways, and also makes Bush-basher Richard Clarke look like a hero.
Also (as with the case of the original 9/11 Commission), the film omits some aspects of the story that could have been beneficial towards Bush – including the fact that some involved in the 1993 WTC bombing had significant Iraqi connections. [Obviously, you can’t tell every aspect of a story spanning over 8 years in a single 5-hour movie.]
But there is certainly no denying that conservatives are gravitating to this project much more so than the left. Does that make the film “right wing”? Not on your life.
Think of it in terms of C-SPAN. When it was first introduced, the political Right clearly embraced that channel in a much more fervent manner than the Left. Would you then call C-SPAN partisan? Of course not.
C-SPAN appealed more to conservatives because it finally offered a more neutral alternative to the liberal-biased network news that had been shoved down everyone’s throat until that time. The same dynamic will be at work in this instance.
Bush does not come off as a hero here by any means. However, the Clinton administration has clearly been trying to whitewash past history to a much greater extent over 9/11. As a result, a film that truly “lets the chips fall where they may” is likely to have a disproportionate impact on their psyche than the Bushies.
Right now, all left-wing sites are hearing is that “conservative sites” are praising the film – therefore they automatiocally (and wrongly) conclude that it must be a “right-wing hit piece”, and are now calling for a boycott of ABC without having seen it for themselves.
But the ignorant partisan backlash by those who haven’t seen “The Path to 9/11” is only going to get worse once Limbaugh sees this thing and comments on it…Believe me.
[posted by Justin Levine]