Very good, but no truly new perspectives
Irfan A. Alvi | Towson, MD USA | 05/31/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is generally a very good movie which explores the issue of race relations, primarily revolving around the story of a neo-Nazi group in California. The acting is good overall, the plot is gripping, many of the images are (appropriately) horrifying, and Ed Norton is impressively buff.
The main point the movie illustrates is that, because reality is rich and complex, one can readily sift and bend the evidence in order to construct all sorts of ideologies, including generally racist and specifically neo-Nazi ideologies. A person with a lot of brainpower, but lacking checks and balances, can do this fairly creatively and rigorously, and such a person possessed with rhetorical skill can sell the ideology to more credulous people, especially if they're at an impressionable age or if they're facing tough times and would like to shift blame away from themselves and toward others. If you have any doubt about this, try the experiment of spending a few days forcefully arguing for an ideology which you abhor; you might be surprised by the extent to which you begin to convince even yourself! A related point is that falling in the grip of an ideology fosters a tribal mindset, which can lead to conflict between cultures, nations, classes, religious groups, political parties, "special interests," clans, gangs, and of course races (though race is more a cultural than biological concept). Such conflict can escalate to perpetuated violence ("An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" - Gandhi). Again, all of this is illustrated well by the movie.
My one complaint is that the movie doesn't really show how the main neo-Nazi character breaks free of his ideology and, moreover, his younger brother breaks free almost literally overnight, which strikes me as fairly implausible. Because of this flaw, and because the movie didn't really cover any new ground or offer new perspectives for me (I've thought about this stuff for nearly all of my life), I've deducted one star, but I can still recommend this movie to anyone interested in a vivid depiction of these issues."