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Film review: The Hamburg Cell


The Hamburg Cell (2004)                                                    

This low-budget film is one of the best that I've seen about 9/11. Originally made for British television, the film follows several of the hijackers in the years leading up to the murderous assault on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. They were known as the Hamburg cell because they met in Hamburg, Germany where they came to attend university. The film centers around terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta, who would later fly American Airlines flight 11 into the WTC, and Ziad Jarrah, the pilot of United Airlines flight 93 which would go down in a Pennsylvania field.

The film is simple yet compelling, and from my knowledge of the subject seems to be quite an accurate portrayal of events. Atta is the cold, repressive fanatic one might expect to be a religious terrorist, while Jarrah is an almost sympathetic figure. When he arrived in Germany, Jarrah was a shy, secular student who once attended a Catholic school in Lebanon. He has a girlfriend and seems much more comfortable in the Western lifestyle than in a strict Islamic culture. But he is approached and befriended, and ultimately seduced, by some fellow Muslim students who convince him that he is living on enemy territory. His gradual descent into religious extremism is chilling to watch. From Germany, the men travel to Afghanistan for terrorist training and eventually move to America where they take pilot training and prepare for their suicidal and homicidal mission. Conclusion: this is a very good drama film and an insightful look inside the world of Islamic extremism.

Watch the trailer here:


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