The Looming Tower

  • Post category:Television
  • Post last modified:September 7, 2020
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A Pulitzer Prize-winning book examining the rise of al-Qaeda and the inability of the FBI and the CIA to collaborate in effective ways under presidents Clinton and Bush, leading up to 9/11, inspired this ambitious limited series. The story is told from different perspectives and illustrates the clash between those who are trying to arrest terrorists and those who believe that it’s basically a job for the military. A chilling and frustrating look at intelligence work and two very different but dedicated men in the field whose private lives and beliefs affected them deeply as the hunt for al-Qaeda intensified. Jeff Daniels is terrific. 

2018-U.S. Made for TV. 492 min. Color. Created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, Lawrence Wright. Book: Lawrence Wright. Cast: Jeff Daniels (John O’Neill), Tahar Rahim (Ali Soufan), Wrenn Schmidt (Diane Marsh), Bill Camp, Louis Cancelmi, Ella Rae Peck… Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin.

Trivia: Originally shown in ten episodes. Co-produced by the real-life Soufan. Gibney and John Dahl are among the directors. The miniseries The Path to 9/11 (2006) depicted some of the same events and people. 

Last word: “I think a lot of the 9/11 stuff that had been done had focused very much on the event itself. [By] going back in time to 1998, we came up with a central motor for the narrative, which was this conflict between the FBI and the CIA, both motivated to try and protect America but really at loggerheads in terms of what their roles were. The tragedy of that drama, set against real-life events, would maybe engage people in a way that some of the other 9/11 stuff wouldn’t.” (Gibney, Indiewire)

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