The Looming Tower

November 11, 2018

Bored with Homeland? I wanted something else to get my teeth into, same sort of subject matter but less about some nutjob and her child custody battles. I don’t watch much in the way of television, but instead, we tend to watch some of the Amazon prime shows and came across this great 10 part mini-series called The Looming Tower and loved it! Gripping, engaging, entertaining all in one. If this is a subject that interests you or just want to watch something good, give this a try.

Based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Wright, this adaptation looks at how the infamous rivalry between the CIA and FBI affected America. The lack of sharing intelligence especially at the Alec Station, highlights how some people thought their egos were bigger and more important than the national security issues. The FBI with the  I-49 Squad in New York and the Washington based CIA Alec Station are the main focus with intelligence gathering and also butting of heads.

Think of this as Homeland but more focused on 9/11 and Bin Laden. Jeff Daniels plays an FBI Special Agent, who inbetween fucking behind his wifes back, running up huge expense account bills and fighting an intelligence sharing war with  CIA analyst Martin Schmid ( played to a tee by Peter Sarsgaard ) is the FBI counter-terrorism expert who has boots on the ground. After the bomb blast in Nairobi wipes out the American Embassy, he sends his FBI investigators to the scene, while the CIA are pushing the Administration to launch several strikes against suspected terrorist camps.

THE LOOMING TOWER — John O’Neill (Jeff Daniels), shown. (Photo by: Marco Grob/Hulu)

 

This is a well present miniseries, showing how the American intelligence people missed vital information as they were not willing to share with colleagues from different agencies. With the Clinton-Lewinsky saga in the news, the backdrop to this series shows footage from news clips and this adds to the realism of this show. The decision to launch 2 retaliatory strikes though, codenamed Operation Infinite Reach, instead of finishing off the terrorists, actually made them step up their efforts. The scene where you see young lads paying out in the camp one evening, then there are bright lights in the sky, as they point and stare – blissfully unaware of the approaching carnage on route to them. Diane Marsh is another CIA operative, who is blindly loyal to her station chief Schmidt.

 

 

Why The Looming Tower ?

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, the title also refers to a quote used from the Koran. The rise of Al-Qaeda and radicals across the globe, who went from quite unknown to become an entity capable of planning such devastating attacks on American soil. The influence a small group of masterminds could exert to ‘soldiers’ willing to die for their faith in suicide attacks.

“wherever you are, death will find you, even if you are in lofty towers” – which was quoted by Osama bin Laden before the attacks of 9/11 give the title for the book.  What was surprising though was at the time, the huge resources of the FBI only had 8 (yes, you are reading this correctly – eight) members of staff who were Arabic speaking.

The Looming Tower reviewed

The action is broken up by the viewers been taken to the official inquiry as the 2004 Senate Commission interviewed Schmidt, Soufan and Clarke in an effort to find out not so much why the attack happened but also to discover who knew it could possibly happen and why those who saw it coming didn’t share the intel. Could the attacks have been avoided if the CIA had managed to pressure the White House into earlier airstrikes? Maybe better information access between agencies could have helped. Were some of the senior figures still looking at the Cold War as the main threat? There are so many questions that could be asked here and also plenty of answers that didn’t address what needed looking at. This is an enjoyable, slightly gritty series without glossing over the important parts. Yes, there’s the usual handful of bedroom scenes, had O’Neill had any more lovers his wedding ring would have worn away with how often he removed it then replaced it.

Diane Marsh

Plenty of female characters, but one who stood out was Diane Marsh, who reminded me of the character Maya on the film Zero Dark Thirty. ( if you’ve not watched Zero Dark Thirty, shame on you).  A stronger and more thoughtful personality than say Carrie from Homeland, it’s easy to see how Diane sees her patriotic duties as the must be everything. Do people like these still exist today? Without a doubt, but most stay in the shadows.

If you want to read the book it’s available to order. Please note; if you’re in the UK, the link will take you to Amazon UK.

Last update on 2022-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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