The Looming Tower: Miniseries (2018)

The Looming Tower

Critics Consensus

Well-acted and powerfully written, The Looming Tower delivers gripping counter-terrorism drama rendered even more soberingly effective through its roots in real-life events.



Critic Ratings: 59


Audience Score

User Ratings: 559

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Air date: Feb 28, 2018
Air date: Feb 28, 2018
Air date: Feb 28, 2018
Air date: Mar 7, 2018
Air date: Mar 14, 2018
Air date: Mar 21, 2018
Air date: Mar 28, 2018
Air date: Apr 4, 2018
Air date: Apr 11, 2018
Air date: Apr 18, 2018
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Tv Season Info

This drama series exposes the increasing danger of Al-Qaeda in the late 1990s, focusing on how the clash between the FBI and CIA might have accidentally cleared the path for the disaster that was 9/11 and, subsequently, the war in Iraq. John O'Neill (Jeff Daniels), part of the counter-terrorism division of the FBI, must deal with the insufficient help from their colleagues in the CIA – including their combative leader, Martin Schmidt (Peter Sarsgaard). Both groups travel the globe, clashing over the ownership of data while they are supposedly trying to achieve the same goal: keeping the country safe.


Jeff Daniels
as John O'Neill
Peter Sarsgaard
as Martin Schmidt
Tahar Rahim
as Ali Soufan
Michael Stuhlbarg
as Richard Clarke
Bill Camp
as Robert Chesney
Virginia Kull
as Kathy Shaughnessy
Louis Cancelmi
as Vince Stuart
Wrenn Schmidt
as Diane Priest
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News & Interviews for The Looming Tower: Miniseries

Critic Reviews for The Looming Tower Miniseries

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (22)

What was surprising was how much of a high-octane rollercoaster the first episode was.

Apr 29, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

As volatile, womanising FBI agent John O'Neill, [Jeff Daniels] no less all-American but revelling in a foul-mouthed, all-guns-blazing role taken from the sort of real life that's stranger than fiction.

Apr 19, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The effect is to turn the story into a police procedural where everyone knows the bad guys are going to get away with it and the personal struggles of the main characters feel especially low stakes given the tragedy we know is inevitable.

Dec 28, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The Looming Tower offers plenty of noteworthy hooks.

Feb 26, 2018 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
Top Critic

It's like watching Tom and Jerry play a testosterone-fueled game of cat and mouse while a venomous snake quietly slithers past them in a suicide vest.

Feb 22, 2018 | Full Review…

On the evidence of the first episode, it is quite a gripping series, and there are two fantastic performances at its heart.

Mar 8, 2018 | Full Review…

The Looming Tower is quite the piece of kit.

Apr 29, 2019 | Full Review…

The problem is that The Looming Tower doesn't communicate much more than research.

Dec 28, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

[T]he series never quite equals the sum of its parts.

Dec 28, 2018 | Full Review…

The series is focused on dialogue and interpersonal conflict making it one of the better mini-series this year.

Oct 10, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Looming Tower: Miniseries

  • Jun 11, 2019
    Reality Television This is a superb adaptation of Lawrence Wright's stunning non-fiction about the path to 9/11. Successfully bringing this real life account to television requires compelling characters to flesh out a story we may know in outline. Jeff Daniels is the centrepiece of this, supported by his Lebanese sidekick Tahar Rahim. Daniels if John O'Neil, the brave but flawed FBI counter-terrorism chief and it is his story that packs the punch. The battle between the intelligence services is laid bare with the CIA coming out very badly indeed, through arrogance, ignorance and malevolence. Richard Clarke is a minor hero, but the rest of the intelligence community, major villains. The plot covers the emergence of al Qaeda from just before the bombing of the Kenyan embassy to the 9/11 attacks. It moves around the world, using a mix of real and staged footage. Surprisingly, it is the women who come off very badly in this drama - the CIA number 2 in Alex station is a particular villain as is Condi Rice. Their lack of concern for the FBI and for the sharing of data is held to account. The bravery of O'Neill and his young protege Ali Soufan stand out, as does Robert Chesney, played by Bill Camp. All in all, a stunning victory for Amazon streaming.
  • May 16, 2019
    Serious continuity mistakes in this show destroy the reality and break the illusion. The Director needs to do some basic homework, the scenes set in foreign countries need to have some semblance to the actual locations. One example amongst others, in the 3rd episode they interview an English landlady in a street that purports to be somewhere in Britain, strangely though all the cars are American and of a type that are not available in the UK. The buildings are flat-roofed town-houses of an architecture that is distinctly urban America. To attempt to portray this as a foreign setting shows a disrespect to the audience or a complete lack of knowledge of the world outside America. I expect much more from a film-maker. There was not even the slightest attempt to film the scene in a realistic setting. This sort of shoddy work puts the whole show into instant disrepute and the viewer starts to question the credibility of any location that is shown, any supposed fact that is displayed is no longer credible and the viewer is brought back to reality in an instant. Initially I liked the premise and some of the performances, the drama was engaging but from this point my suspension of belief was burst, I was brought down to earth and I could not engage any further with the show. Someone utterly failed to do their job. I watched no more.
  • Feb 24, 2019
    Great spy and intelligence show
  • Jan 02, 2019
    The miniseries telling astory of how the CIA and the FBI had conflicting ideas about how best to oppose Al Qaeda in the late 1990s and 2000. And these agencies' inability to work together created opportunities for Jihadism to fester and grow. Amazing performances, by Jeff Daniels and Tahar Rahim. We all know how it ended, but this series adds to the human element, the frustration and ultimate sadness.
  • Oct 08, 2018
    This is a story that I didn't realize needed to be told but happily, it was. The FBI vs CIA and the lack of cooperation and failure in our government to prevent the attacks on 9/11 was such a vital part of this tragedy. While this presentation is fairly one sided in taking a very complicated issue and making if fairly black and white with regards to good guys and bad (The Bush administration is called out much more than the Clinton and it makes the FBI the good guy and the CIA the bad when I am sure all held equal responsibility) as well as tries to take on deeper character issues than it is able to address with the scope of story that needs to be followed, the acting is superb and the dialogue intelligent. One of the stronger offerings from Hulu.
  • Sep 23, 2018
    Powerful retelling of the events leading up to one of the worst days in American history. I recommend Ghost Wars by Steve Coll as a companion to this, and having read that previously I did not find as much of the content in The Looming Tower as shocking and disturbing as I otherwise would have. The acting is superb, there were scenes that will leave you with goosebumps and chills.
  • Sep 22, 2018
    brilliant , compelling
  • Sep 18, 2018
    Intriguing, engrossing, infuriating featuring great performances from everyone involved. It constantly plays with the notion of being great but never quite gets there.
  • Sep 18, 2018
    A very insightful and entertaining look at the events surrounding 9/11 and Al Qaeda. Specifically focuses on the problematic relationship between the FBI and the CIA. Very very good television.
  • Sep 08, 2018
    Exceptionally well made and well acted. It is difficult to hold viewer interest in real life based serials where the end is known. While the viewpoint is highly biased (pro-FBI and anti-CIA) and likely exaggerated, the serial makes numerous relevant points while telling a highly engaging story.

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