Film review: 'Why We Fight' lacks subtlety

Published: Friday, March 17 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks out in "Why We Fight."

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WHY WE FIGHT — *** — Documentary feature about America's military-industrial complex; featuring English subtitles for some Arabic dialects; rated PG-13 (violence, gore, profanity).

"Why We Fight" isn't exactly subtle. And it's not the most even-handed film treatment of the Bush administration.

In fact, this documentary feature is so set on proving that this country's military buildup has led to corruption and possible government collusion that it could be considered akin to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

But unlike that film, "Why We Fight" lets its subjects do the talking; there's no constant narrative presence like in Moore's film. And as a result, it's considerably more persuasive.

Not to be confused with legendary director Frank Capra's pro-war "educational" films produced during World War II, Eugene Jarecki's film examines America's military-industrial complex. That term was created by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who cautioned against the creation of just such a thing during his 1961 closing address.

Jarecki ("The Trials of Henry Kissinger") argues that Eisenhower's worst fears have been realized and that the country has become an empire of sorts. He even compares this American "empire" to the ill-fated Roman Empire and reminds viewers what happened in that particular instance.

There are parallels to Moore's works, including a sequence that questions Vice President Dick Cheney's much-publicized connections to military-contractor Halliburton. And as expected, there are interviews with supposedly such left-leaning pundits as author Gore Vidal and Joseph Cirincione, from the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.

But some of most scathing criticisms of current national policies come from the more conservative subjects — in particular, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who looks a little uncomfortable being so outspoken.

"Why We Fight" is rated PG-13 for some violent content (newsreel footage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and warfare), as well as some other violent (and gory) imagery, and some scattered use of strong profanity. Running time: 99 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com