Bowling for Columbine (15)

Film image
Michael Moore
Michael Moore

The ViewLondon Review

Review byMatthew Turner11/11/2002

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Extremely impressive documentary, by turns hilarious, moving, terrifying, depressing and thought provoking – this is one of the best films of the year.

Michael Moore is perhaps best known for his satirical TV series The Awful Truth and TV Nation, although anyone who’s seen his 1989 film Roger & Me will have some idea of what to expect here.

In Bowling For Columbine, he takes a long hard look at the culture of violence in America and asks “Are we a nation of gun nuts, or are we just nuts?” The result is one of the funniest, yet at the same time, most terrifying and depressing films you’ll see all year.

I’d Like The Account Where You Get The Free Gun

The film starts brilliantly, with Moore opening a bank account and receiving a free gun ("I'd like the account where you get the free gun" "Certainly sir, sign here...") and quickly takes in everything from the Oklahoma bombings to the Columbine high school shootings to September 11th - there's a horrifying montage detailing American foreign policy over a period of 20 years.

At the end the caption reads "September 11th: Osama Bin Laden uses his expert American training to launch an attack on the US" over the footage of the planes hitting the tower, something that has led to Moore receiving a lot of negative publicity (of the “un-American” variety) in the States.

One of the film’s key moments comes when he meets a couple of teenagers who have inoperable bullets lodged in their bodies as a result of the Columbine shootings. He persuades them to ‘return the merchandise’ to Wal-Mart, the superstore chain that sold the ammunition, and accompanies them to central office. The result comes of as much of a surprise to Moore as it does to the audience.

It’s All Marilyn’s Fault

Moore packs a huge amount of material into the two hour film, including lots of clips from other sources (the South Park movie, a great clip from a Chris Rock concert where he's saying 'What if every bullet cost five thousand dollars? I'm gonna blow your muthafuckin' head off...when I can afford it!'), plus the inevitable news footage, some of which is really shocking.

He also stages several interviews, including one with Marilyn Manson (whose music was ‘blamed’ for Columbine) and a chilling sequence with Terry McVeigh, the brother of the Oklahoma Bomber.

Occasionally, he uses fairly obvious editing techniques to hammer his point home (a lengthy montage of newsreaders saying 'The suspect is a black male' for example), but he makes a very convincing argument. Having said that, the film is bound to have its critics, but one of its strengths is that it forces you to get angry, whether in support of Moore or against him.

It Wouldn’t Happen In Canada

The most fascinating part of the film comes when he analyses Canada in relation to the U.S. The Canadians have the same high numbers of gun-owners and relatively high ethnic mixes, yet an amazingly low murder rate. Moore wonders why and eventually blames the media for its plethora of 'If it bleeds, it leads' stories keeping the population living in fear.

We're then shown a lengthy montage of scare stories ranging from everything from snakes to Killer Bees and cancer stories. It's pretty convincing, particularly if you’ve ever had to sit through an American “news” programme.

There are many great scenes, particularly the much-publicised climactic confrontation with NRA mouthpiece Charlton Heston and a specially commissioned South Park-like cartoon – by Harold Moss - that explicitly links fear of other races with gun control in America’s early history. Another definite highlight occurs when Moore, after finding out that people in Toronto don't lock their doors, goes and randomly opens doors all over town...

To sum up, this is an excellent film that will both make you laugh and send you away with something to think about. Unmissable.

Film Trailer

Bowling for Columbine (15)
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Content updated: 17/07/2018 12:44

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