Nearly nine years after September 11th, Hollywood is still figuring out just what to do with the tragedy, the war on terror, and related subjects. On one hand, of course, the staunchly apolitical Iraq War indie The Hurt Locker just won the Best Picture Oscar. On the other hand, Paul Greengrass's Green Zone -- a partisan tract on a nine-figure budget -- bombed at the box-office last weekend, proving that audiences are still cautious about broaching the subject as entertainment. The most successful attempt to distill current events for mass consumption has also been the best: Ridley Scott's Body of Lies took a step back from the hot-button issues and snuck devastating commentary on our Middle East quagmire into a breathless spy thriller.
On the other hand, documentary filmmakers, blessed with reduced commercial expectations, have been able to attack the subject from all directions, to the point where you could use their work to put together a degree program in post-9/11 world affairs. No End in Sight was the non-fiction equivalent of Green Zone, serving as an all-purpose condemnation of the Bush administration. Why We Fight tried to frame the Iraq War in a broader context, repeating Eisenhower's warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex. Gunner Palace was a verité punch in the gut, following a platoon of soldiers on the ground in Iraq. Control Room looked at the war zone from the point of view of the beleaguered Middle Eastern news network Al Jazeera. New World Order, a SXSW hit last year, took a deeply skeptical look at the 9/11 "truther" subculture.