Movie review: Michael Moore against the machine in 'Fahrenheit 11/9'

The Oscar-winning Michigan filmmaker takes on a host of subjects in his funny, furious new film

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Michael Moore in "Fahrenheit 11/9."

Michael Moore's Donald Trump movie, his Flint water crisis movie and his movie explaining that the system is screwed and that outsiders are the future, "Fahrenheit 11/9," takes on a lot but is never less than impassioned. 

Truth be told, "Fahrenheit 11/9" should be focused on Flint: It's where the Flint native's ire is most heavily concentrated, and it's the subject closest to his heart.

The movie exposes the water crisis, its roots and its results in a way no other project to date has been able to, as Moore breaks down a complicated subject in a digestible manner so that everyone can follow along. (It's one of his strengths as a filmmaker, as explained in the film by Jared Kushner, of all people.)

A movie focused strictly on Flint would have been a strong bookend to "Roger & Me," Moore's first film, which put him on the map and made him a threat to the powerful 30 years ago.

But a Trump film — especially one whose title is a spicy play off of "Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore's 2004 film about George W. Bush and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, which stands as the highest-grossing documentary feature of all-time — is obviously more marketable, even if its title and marketing are rather misleading. 

That's not to say Moore doesn't have plenty of ammo for Trump. He revisits the 2016 election, presenting Trump's run as a ploy to squeeze more money out of NBC execs after Gwen Stefani received a pay raise on "The Voice," and shows how things spiraled from there. (Moore presents a package of news clips, including George Clooney saying in May 2016, "there's not going to be a President Trump," that's similar to footage Dinesh D'Souza used in his recent "Death of a Nation" and what James D. Stern used in his 2016 election documentary "American Chaos.")

Moore uses Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's ties to Trump to abruptly switch the focus to Flint, a somewhat jarring transition, and then spends a fair amount of time concentrating on what led to the water crisis. (A lot of people come out of "Fahrenheit" looking bad, but none worse than Snyder.)  

Later, Moore switches back to the presidency and highlights the problematic nature of the electoral college, and the ineffectiveness of a system where the popular vote winners consistently lose elections. He turns to political outsiders — including New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and West Virginia state senator Richard Ojeda — as future saviors of our broken political system. 

There's also some stuff thrown in with the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida, and about a West Virginia teacher's strike, because why not. 

"Fahrenheit 11/9" plays like Michael Moore's greatest hits, and though it's at times scattershot, it all plays into the bigger picture, which is the heated state of our current political climate.

And Moore's not letting Democrats off the hook easy: He's highly critical of Hillary Clinton and her campaign strategies, and he's especially scathing toward former President Barack Obama, zeroing in on his visit to Flint where he pretended to drink a glass of water, thereby minimizing the city's water problem as well as its need for a swift solution.

Moore's overall presentation — his gift for humor, his use of music and stock footage — make his heavy subject matter breezy, which helps get his point across. "Fahrenheit 11/9" is no doubt a call to arms, but there are so many problems presented, there's no clear action to be taken.

Perhaps that's the point: We are currently in a time where great change is afoot, and there is so much to do that any action is helpful to the cause. "Fahrenheit 11/9" presents a you're-either-in-or-you're-out scenario. Moore is definitely in.


'Fahrenheit 11/9'


Rated R for language and some disturbing material/images

Running time: 125 minutes