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Film review: Weather Underground, The

Published: Thursday, Dec. 4 2003 3:00 p.m. MST

John Jacobs and Terry Robbins demonstrate with others at the Days of Rage in Chicago in October 1969.

David Fenton, ITVS

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"The Weather Underground" does as fine a job of getting into the heads of its subjects as any documentary in recent memory.

Of course, whether audience members will want to get into the heads of this particular film's subjects — the 1960s radicals who called themselves the Weathermen — may depend on their tolerance for the group's extremist beliefs and even more extreme methods for attaining "peace."

The Weathermen group was an offshoot of the somewhat more peaceful Students for a Democratic Society, which carried out a series of violent "responses" — including bombings and robberies — to perceived societal injustices during the '60s and '70s.

The film is necessarily sympathetic to the group's cause. In fact, the most powerful moments come when one former member of the Weathermen, Brian Flanagan, questions his actions and then expresses regret for what he did in his youth.

"The Weather Underground" catches up with Flanagan and some other former members more than two decades after their much publicized surrender. Now an educator, Mark Rudd also has doubts about what he did. However, David Gilbert (who is serving time in Comstock Federal Penitentiary) is less repentant. And both Bernadine Dohrn and Laura Whitehorn are still involved in

activism — though obviously not to such an extreme degree.

Where the film really drops the ball is in its discussion of the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies that were assigned to track down the Weathermen. This potentially fascinating subplot could have served as the subject of its own documentary, but here is brought up and dismissed rather quickly.

On the plus side, Lili Taylor's no-nonsense narration helps fill in some blanks, but mostly, she and the filmmakers let the subjects do the talking.

"The Weather Underground" is not rated but would probably receive an R for violence, sexual profanity, brief drug use, male and female nudity, a brief scene of sex, crime scene photos and use of racial epithets. Running time: 92 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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