Oklahoma City *** / *****
Directed by: Barak Goodman.
Written by: Barak Goodman.
It’s somewhat odd – and disappointing – that in an era is which HBO takes hours to delve into the case of Robert Durst, Netflix goes long on Making a Murderer, and ESPN funds OJ: Made in America – which Oklahoma City – made for PBS’ American Experience, only runs 102 minutes. The Oklahoma City bombing itself could support a deep dive similar to those other films – and when you realize that Barak Goodman’s film is also going to dive into events like Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas – as precursors for the bombing – you realize that you really should be watching a miniseries, not a movie. That isn’t to say that the film is bad – it isn’t – just that the film barely has the time to cover what happened in three complex events, let alone connect them in the meaningful way that Goodman clearly intends to. The film is best suited for those who know little to nothing about the three events – or in other words, not a true crime junkie like myself, who has seen several documentaries, read multiple books, and listened to multiple podcasts on the subjects before sitting down to watch the film.
Goodman’s theory – and its pretty well supported – is that Timothy McVeigh – the man primarily responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing – did his crime as a response to the Federal Government’s action at Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas – events in which you don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to think the Federal government may well have overstepped their bounds. At Ruby Ridge, the FBI goes to arrest Randy Weaver – a man they have a warrant on for selling a sawed off shotgun – and end up in a gun battle, that leaves several members of the Weaver family dead – along with members of the FBI. Io Waco, Texas – the ATF raids the comping of the Branch Davidians – a cult led by David Koresh – and which also ends in a standoff, and gun battle – and many more people dead. The movie tries to connect the three incidents – and more importantly, the ideology behind them – together.
It’s here where things get a little murky. While the Weaver, Branch Davidians and McVeigh were all on the fringes of White Nationalist groups – I’m not sure any of it ever amounts to pure ideology in that regard. In other words, while I think it’s pretty clear they were all racists, I’m not sure who can say that was their defining characteristics. That may well be the fact that all of them pretty much wanted to be left alone – and went to great lengths to ensure that the government would leave them alone, and then responded violently when they didn’t.