Twenty years on and the memory of 9/11 is still fresh, with its consequential war on terror totally reshaping the world as we know it, costing trillions in dollars and too many to count in lives. Adam Wishart’s documentary, 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room returns to the September 11th attacks, with an exclusive look at the goings-on behind the closed doors of the people who were in charge on that fateful day.
The New York Times’s James Poniewozik describes how “TV specials for the Sept 11 anniversary offer any number of ways to return to hell”, a necessary evil at this time of the year, as “it would be unimaginable to simply ignore it.” 9/11 is a moment in time which demands remembrance, but Wishart goes one step further, choosing in this documentary to focus on recalling “how historic decisions were made and how the fallible humans who made them felt”, as Jack Seale states in The Guardian.
The film contains archive footage which has, as Seale describes “plenty of Adam Curtis moments”, where viewers find themselves morbidly drawn to, what Poniewozik blisteringly terms as “stunning footage of an airliner slamming into the north tower”. Alongside this footage is a series of insider interviews with the primary senior staff members called into action that day, with cameos from Dick Cheney and even George W Bush himself.
In The Telegraph, Miranda Levy quotes Wishart, who articulates that “the point of the film is to put yourself into the President’s seat and ask: what would you have done?” It is, of course, a question which is impossible to answer, but by opening the door to the President’s room, the barrier between world leader and human being is destroyed. Wishart exposes how, at the heart of the war on terror is a terrified man, grappling for control and sense in a world where, on a crisp September morning, one senseless act can rip through the lives of thousands.
However, what is so pertinent about this documentary, is Seale’s notion that “being in the room doesn’t stop us from looking beyond”, a sentiment which is as apt now in 2021, as it was on the 11th of September 2001.
First shown August 2021.