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The Looming Tower 2018

[Review] “The Looming Tower” season 1: FBI Vs CIA Vs Al-Qaïda

Dernière mise à jour : juin 8th, 2020 at 09:58 pm

Based on the eponymous book by American journalist Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize in 2007, the Hulu mini-series The Looming Tower by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright discuss the FBI/CIA rivalry in the late ’90s while the threat Bin Laden and Al Qaeda was growing. The opinion of Bulles de Culture on The Looming Tower season 1, available on Amazon Prime Video from Friday, March 9, 2018 in France.


The Looming Tower traces the rising threat of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, and takes a controversial look at how the rivalry between the CIA and FBI may have inadvertently set the stage for the tragedy of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

The Looming Tower Season 1: Before 9/11

The Looming Tower 2018 image
© Amazon Prime Video

The first episode of The Looming Tower season 1 begins in 1998 with the CIA’s surveillance of a terrorist cell—- brilliantly direction with shadowing and hand-to-hand of a mysterious object — followed by the arrest of a man in possession of a computer and a floppy disk which was the mysterious object transmitted from hand to hand. This haul, which reminds us how computer was like in the 20th century, is then followed by the refusal CIA anti-terrorist unit of Martin Schmidt (Peter Sarsgaard) to share freshly recovered informations with the FBI antiterrorist unit of John O’Neill (Jeff Daniels). The starting point of the book of the journalist Lawrence Wright is thus quickly clearly stated, namely that FBI and CIA was opposed with their different vision of anti-terrorism as al-Qaeda began to concretely threat against the United States (“Now it begins”, John O’Neill says at the end of the first episode) and that only the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal interested the media and the audience at this moment.

A documented and exciting series

The Looming Tower 2018 image 3
© Amazon Prime Video

With a great cast (Jeff Daniels, Peter Sarsgaard, Bill Camp, Michael Stuhlbarg…) where the French Tahar Rahim is very good too, The Looming Tower season 1 leads us into a bureaucratic battle with the background of terrorists hunt that we know by now failed. With true archival footage and fiction, the series takes us back into the context of this era and allows us to (re)discover incredible images, such as the interview of Bin Laden by an American journalist in Afghanistan or the video of a Al-Qaida leader threatening the United States very clearly (“We will send you a message directly that you will understand”) before the attack in Kenya.

We can certainly criticize The Looming Tower season 1 of overplaying, as often in American fiction, a little too much on the effects of suspense and emotion with editing (slow motion) and music effects a little too marked but we can recognize too that this return on the events announcing the September 11 attacks against with FBI/CIA rivalries on the background is well documented and exciting. Here we are confronted with the attacks of the American embassies of Kenya and Tanzania but also the one  against the US missile destroyer destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.

In the heart of  what may happened in US secret service offices

In short, in view of its first episodes, The Looming Tower season 1 is a captivating and thrilling spying series that places us in the heart of what may happened in US secret service offices, event so they were composed of brilliant people, that may participated in the terrible attacks by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda on US soil.


To learn more:

  • The Looming Tower season 1 is available in France on Amazon Prime Video from Friday, March 9, 2018
  • Released on Hulu in the United States since February 25, 2018, The Looming Tower season 1 is available in other English-speaking countries (since March 1st) and non-English speaking (from March 9th) on Amazon Prime Video, at the rate of one episode per week for a total of ten episodes
Jean-Christophe Nurbel

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