Fuck no, it’s not a good movie! I hate to evoke Ebert again so soon, but watching Loose Change I was reminded of the exuberantly venomous review he wrote of the movie North in 1994: “[O}ne of the most unpleasant, contrived, artificial, cloying experiences I've had at the movies. To call it manipulative would be inaccurate; it has an ambition to manipulate, but fails.” And later on he writes, famously, “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.” Substitute “enlightened” or “persuaded” for “entertained” in the last line, and Roger could’ve been writing about Loose Change. Quoting a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic in my shitty little movie review is not a great idea, but what Ebert writes about North describes my feelings about Loose Change so perfectly it’s as if I were a much better critic and had written it myself.
And in case you’re wondering what Ebert actually did think of Loose Change, here’s one more from him: "I watched the first 20 minutes of the film and, bored and unimpressed, skipped through the rest, pausing here and there. You really should take a look at it. Not because it in any way proves its extraordinary premise - that the United States government was behind the Sept. 11 attacks – but because it may interest you to see the kind of parody of critical analysis that convinces too many people.” That’s what makes this such a bad film, in a nutshell: not that it proposes explanations for what “really” happened on September 11, 2001 that range from the preposterous to the impossible, but that it is a very poorly produced and presented documentary, made by men with no relevant experience as journalists or filmmakers who throughout the film consistently come off as supercilious little punks.
The film’s premise is never explicitly defined beyond the broad claim that 9/11 was “an inside job,” perpetrated not by Islamic terrorists in hijacked commercial airplanes, but by the United States government. How the government did this, who within the government was responsible, the motivation for the government to commit such an atrocity, even what the government actually did is never explained. Loose Change offers no coherent timeline, makes no specific accusations, does not even attempt to present a cohesive alternative version of what happened on 9/11/2001 to contradict the official story. What it offers instead is a series of unrelated, often contradictory suppositions, based on illogical speculation and conjecture, and unreliable or severely misinterpreted evidence, grouped together loosely by location and presented out of chronological order (following the opening credits, the film deals first with the attack on the Pentagon, leaving the Twin Towers, which were the first targets hit that morning, for later).
Dylan Avery and his collaborators are so incompetent as documentarians that often their arguments are immediately refuted by the visual evidence they produce to support them. This happens several times in the Pentagon section alone. The film argues that a cruise missile, not a 757, smashed into the Pentagon, and this is the reason why there was no trace of an airplane on the lawn of the Pentagon following the crash. During the narration, news footage of recovery workers at the Pentagon is shown, with hundreds of pieces of debris clearly visible on the lawn in the background. Even more amazingly, in the same section where the film claims a cruise missile hit the Pentagon, a photograph of a large, mangled piece of debris, obviously from the fuselage of an airplane, complete with painted markings, is shown and described as being suspiciously undamaged. Nevermind the absurdity of describing a twisted piece of metal as “undamaged” – if a missile and not an airplane hit the Pentagon, where did this piece of airplane debris come from? To present this evidence – not merely present it, but underline it – undermines the theory they are putting forward and strengthens the “official story” they are attempting to discredit.
Loose Change shoots itself in the foot again during the World Trade Center section. The major theory presented here is that the Twin Towers collapsed not due to the intense 2000-degree fire that raged on the upper floors, weakening the steel, but due to thermite explosives secretly planted on the superstructures of the towers a few weeks prior. In other words, the fall of the towers was a “controlled demolition.” Video of the towers collapsing from several angles is shown again and again, along with footage of other buildings being taken down in actual controlled demolitions, the idea being to demonstrate how similar the fall of the towers was to these other buildings. Of course, the falls of the towers look nothing like the controlled demolitions shown, again leaving the filmmakers discredited by their own evidence. The video of the Twin Towers clearly shows the upper floors, those above the points of impact of the planes, collapsing first, falling toward the points of impact, and then the rest of the buildings crumbling from the tops down. From these videos, the stress points are obviously where the planes impacted the buildings and the fires burned the hottest, and it is when these points give out from the weight of the floors above that the towers collapse. By contrast, every controlled demolition presented shows a series of precise, well-timed, often simultaneous explosions, followed by the collapse of the building starting at the bottom. Controlled demolitions do not cause buildings, especially, one would think, massive steel and concrete skyscrapers, to crumble from the top down, as was clearly the case with both of the Twin Towers, as confirmed by the footage of the Towers shown in Loose Change ad nauseam. Improbable claims ineptly supported don’t make for a very convincing documentary.
I wouldn’t even call this a documentary, really. The first thing you need to make a documentary is a point of view. The makers of Loose Change seem to have a point of view initially, but the longer the film goes, the more difficult it becomes to figure out exactly what that point of view is. What are they really saying? That the government planned and executed 9/11? Which government – the Bush administration, which had only been in office for nine months? The Clinton administration, who then, I presume, passed the baton to Bush after Gore lost the 2000 election? Some higher-up agency, manipulating the government no matter who the President is – like the often vilified Project for a New American Century, which is mentioned in the film to point out that several of its members are current or former Bush administration officials? How did the government do it? If the official account, the result of years of investigation by dozens of groups, is wrong, what actually happened? Were the planes that hit the Twin Towers flown by remote control? If so, what happened to the passengers that had been onboard when the planes took off that morning? If planes did not crash into the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, what did? And how does one account for the millions of pieces of wreckage and debris found at those sites, which seem to suggest unequivocally that planes did indeed crash? What happened to those planes after they took off? What happened to those passengers? How does one account for the human remains found at the crash sites and identified as the remains of the men, women and children who boarded those flights?
If 9/11 was an inside job, the result of a government conspiracy that included (apparently, from the various claims made in the film) the Executive branch, parts of the Legislative branch, the CIA, the FBI, the armed forces, Wall Street investors who conducted insider trading in the Twin Towers that day, hundreds or perhaps thousands of firms and individual investors who placed an unusually high volume of put options on the stock of airlines prior to the attacks, Marvin Bush and his former company Securacom, World Trade Center leaseholder Larry Silverstein, and whoever the fuck called San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown that morning and warned him not to fly to New York, how is it that not one person among the hundreds of thousands responsible for this act of mass murder has stepped forward in the past five years with sound, persuasive evidence to back this up? How is it that the truth about the most vast and diabolical conspiracy in human history has been uncovered by a company of failed former film students in their early 20s who are unable to offer even elementary support for their own arguments and have made an incoherent film packed with contradictions and glaring logical fallacies? Those of you who accuse Michael Moore of making documentaries that mislead the audience and bend the truth ought to check this one out, ‘cause you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Loose Change isn’t persuasive, and it isn’t compelling. It’s pathetic. It’s one of the most poorly constructed documentaries I’ve ever seen, and the fact that so many people have apparently been convinced by it is depressing. There is a huge gulf between being skeptical or even suspicious of one’s government (the duty of every citizen) and believing outrageous conspiracy theories like those trotted out in Loose Change. In a way it reminds me of another pseudo-documentary I watched on television a few years ago. It aired on TBN and was titled The Signature of God. It was hosted by Grant Jeffries, a Christian apologist who attempts to argue for the literal truth of the Bible using historical and scientific evidence, and who has the same allegiance to critical thinking as the makers of Loose Change. At one point, to prove the accuracy of the Gospels, Jeffries said, “The Gospels were written within thirty years of Christ’s crucifixion, meaning that most of the people who had known Jesus during his ministry would have still been alive. If any of the Gospels had contained information about Jesus that wasn’t accurate, the people who knew better would immediately have stood up and denounced the Gospel writers as liars. That didn’t happen. That means the Gospels are true.” Not exactly airtight, is it? Sounds a lot like “Steel doesn’t melt at 2000-degrees, so the burning jet fuel couldn’t possibly have been the cause of the collapse of the Towers” to me. It doesn’t even take a philosophy student like James, with the bloodthirsty tenacity of a pit-bull – anyone with a little common sense willing to think critically can tear that argument apart, along with every other argument the makers of Loose Change advance. How genuinely intelligent and otherwise rational people like Darren, or the dozens of engineers and PhD’s who support these harebrained theories could be persuaded by such poor evidence and faulty reasoning is beyond me.
If convincing evidence of 9/11 being an inside job exists, I would love to see it. I would love to see a film that presents that evidence in a consistent, coherent, convincing way, that offers an alternative to the official story that does not contradict itself or reality, that is persuasive. I have not seen that evidence, and Loose Change is certainly not that film. It should be shown in film schools along with Batman & Robin and Incubus as a gleaming example of what not to do.