The U.S. Capitol was spared a violent attack on September 11, 2001.

But if you’ve forgotten, it was bombed 30 years earlier. In the middle of the night on February 28, 1971, a blast tore apart a ground-floor bathroom. The bomb harmed no one, but it struck fear in Washington and around the country, triggering calls for tighter security and a swift crackdown on anti-war radicals.

The Capitol bombers belonged to the Weather Underground, who at the time enjoyed a certain mystique for their bravado and their willingness to test the limits of revolutionary ideology. They proudly proclaimed that its members could be found wherever “kids are making love, smoking dope and loading guns” — surely beating a dispatch from Al Qaeda.

Taking its name from the lyric in Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" ("You don't need a weatherman, To know which way the wind blows"), they were a small militant organization of mostly middle-class youth who split off from the Students for a Democratic Society, their methods placing them somewhere between pranksters and terrorists.

Youth, exuberance, sex, drugs; THEY WANTED ACTION.

In October 1969, hundreds of young people, clad in football helmets and wielding pipes, marched through an upscale Chicago shopping district, pummelling parked cars and smashing shop windows in their path. 

This was the first demonstration of the Weather Underground's "Days of Rage”. Outraged by the Vietnam War and racism in America, they waged a low-level war against the U.S. government through much of the 1970s, bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison, and evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history. Although numerically tiny, the members were charismatic, provocative, articulate, and intelligent. They commanded news media attention with their brash rhetoric, violent actions, and, in the eyes of many, romantic allure.

The exploits of the Weathermen — and the former members’ reflections on those exploits now some 30 years later — is at the centre of the film.

Directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel, THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND traces the life and death of the organization. Full of fascinating vintage footage and interviews with former members, the documentary manages to convey the reasons for that mystique as it recognizes how 9/11 has made their crusade even less appealing than it was at the time.