Movie Review: Oklahoma City (2017) #atozchallenge

This is my entry for “O” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “O” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Once in a Lifetime  and The Opposition.

TitleOklahoma City
Release Date: 21 January 2017
Director: Barak Goodman
Production Company:  Ark Media Production for American Experience.

In April 1995, I was recovering from shoulder surgery and generally out of the loop of what was going on in the world when I heard murmurs of something terrible happening in Oklahoma City.  This was before the World Wide Web was widespread and we didn’t even have many TVs on my college campus so I always felt that when I finally caught up on the Oklahoma City bombing it was already an historical event, not something I lived through.  Watching this documentary 23 years later filled me in even more things I missed at the time.

The documentary centers the Oklahoma City bombing within the frame of a growing right-wing extremist movement that began in the 1980s – including white supremacists groups, 2nd Amendment absolutists, and Christianist sects.  The first segment of the film focuses on the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge and the second segment on the Branch Davidians at Waco, two incidents that convinced Timothy McVeigh that the government was set on attacking whites, Christians, and gun owners.  The third segment focuses on the planning the bombing and the devastation of the explosion.  McVeigh is the central figure of this part of the movie which follows the story of his disillusionment with the Army in the Gulf War and growing attraction to right-wing extremism through meeting people at gun shows.

I am very uncomfortable with the sympathetic portrayal of McVeigh in this film, particularly the repeated assertion that he opposed bullies, when any reasonable interpretation of McVeigh’s behavior would understand that he himself was a bully of the worst kind.  Fortunately, there are interviews with first responders and survivors of the blast – particularly parents of children in the Murrah Building’s daycare center who were killed and wounded – that relate the true horrors of that day and ongoing trauma.  Still, this is not the type of story where “balance” is appropriate, in my opinion.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

This is a well-researched and well-documented history of the Oklahoma City Bombing and the right-wing extremist movement that informed McVeigh’s decision to carry out the bombing.  As we’ve seen movements with similar ideologies form the Tea Party, elect Donald Trump to the Presidency, and march openly in the streets of Charlottesville, it’s a chilling reminder of the hate and violence engendered by these beliefs.


If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

I have nothing specifically related to Oklahoma City to recommend, but The Bloody Shirt by Stephen Budiansky reveals an earlier era of white supremacist extremism leading to violence and terror after the Civil War.

Source: I watched this movie on Netflix streaming.

Rating: ***

9 thoughts on “Movie Review: Oklahoma City (2017) #atozchallenge

  1. That’s how it was with me and the space shuttle disaster. I was in a horrible personable situation at the time and it never unfolded live for me like it did for others. I didn’t even know until maybe weeks after.


  2. I disagree quite strongly with some of the implications you seem to be making here. Your blog though.


    1. Thanks for commenting. Not sure what you think I’m implying. White supremacist movements have a well-documented history of fomenting hatred and violence in the United States.


  3. Hi Liam,
    Thanks for putting this together. It made for an informative read. I’m Australian and lately I’ve been missing the news so am not really sure what’s going on by Trump and his like terrify me.
    I have been researching Pablo Picasso for my post today. As you may be aware, he sketched the dove of peace, which is often used by the peace movement or followers. I found out that Picasso first took a stand as a peace activist after Germany bombed the Spanish town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War for practice. Here’s a link to a story which appeared at the time:
    I never knew anything about this until I was researching yesterday. I have to remind myself that there is human goodness and happy, sane people in this world when I read about such atrocities. I was asking myself today how Europe could end up with Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Franco in power. How did it happen? What was wrong with the people? Could it happen again?
    I particularly like these quotes from Edmund Burke:
    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
    Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.
    Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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