Cell [2000]

Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
The Hamburg Cell, a low-key British film full of unknown actors, may be one of the best movies about the World Trade Center attacks. The movie follows Ziad Jarrah (Karim Saleh), a mild middle-class Arab student in Germany, who is drawn into a radical form of Islam by the heated atmosphere of anger and frustration sparked by the violence in the Arab world and what the clerics and students see as corrupt decadence all around them in the West. Gradually, despite a deep relationship with a liberal-minded Turkish woman (Agni Scott), Jarrah sheds his doubts about his cause; he undergoes military training in Afghanistan and goes to a flight school in Florida, finally ending up on one of the doomed flights of 9/11. Director Antonia Bird, director of the controversial Priest, guides her actors to quiet but natural and compelling performances. For American citizens, it may feel like the movie doesn't present a compelling reason why a seemingly mild and thoughtful student would transform into a committed terrorist; but in other parts of the world, where America--rightly or wrongly--is seen as a bully and a profiteer, the leap from bystander to killer may be all too easy to grasp. A quiet, mesmerizing, and valuable film. --Bret Fetzer

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