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The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair (2006)

PG-13 | | Documentary | 23 March 2007 (USA)
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A freedom-loving Iraqi journalist is mistaken as Tony Blair's would-be assassin and sent to Abu Ghraib Prison where he discovers the true meaning of liberation.
2 nominations. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Yunis Khatayer Abbas ...


A freedom-loving Iraqi journalist is mistaken as Tony Blair's would-be assassin and sent to Abu Ghraib Prison where he discovers the true meaning of liberation.

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Rated PG-13 for some strong language and mature thematic elements





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23 March 2007 (USA)  »

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eye-opening documentary
28 July 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair" is a movie with one hell of a provocative, eye-catching title. It's only after you figure out what the movie is actually about, however, that you get the full ironic flavor of that title.

This timely documentary chronicles the story of Yunis Khatayer Abbas, a freelance Iraqi journalist who, along with two of his younger brothers, was falsely accused of planning to assassinate the British Prime Minister during one of his official trips to Baghdad. The movie makes it clear that Yunis and his siblings were innocent from the get-go, and that, after serving nine grueling months at sites including the notorious Abu Ghraib, they were finally released back to their worried families, with a simple muttered "sorry" from the American commanders as sole compensation for the misery they'd suffered.

The story behind the movie is almost as intriguing as the movie itself. Yunis first came to the attention of documentary filmmaker Michael Tucker when the latter was embedded with a National Guard unit - whose job it was to scour Bagdad neighborhoods for suspected terrorists and weapon caches - on the night Yunis was arrested. Yunis' pleas of innocence, as well as his assertion that he was himself a journalist, piqued the interest of Tucker, who, two years later, decided to follow up on the story and find out what had become of the man.

A large portion of the movie's 72-minute running time is dedicated to Yunis speaking freely to the camera, relating the experiences that happened to him in his own unedited words. In addition, Tucker and his co-director, Petra Epperlein (also his wife), include footage of Yunis' actual arrest (first seen in Tucker's previous film, "Gunner Palace"), home movies of Yunis and his family at home and at the beach in happier times, and interviews with humane soldiers who served as guards during Yunis' captivity in Abu Ghraib. The brutalities and indignities Yunis suffered during his imprisonment come through loud and clear as he recounts the horrors of his experience. Epperlein, an artist in her own right, has also provided a series of stark graphic images to go along with Yunis' words.

Given its subject matter, "The Prisoner" will undoubtedly be seen by some on the Right as a mere leftist screed or tract, one designed to paint the Americans in the worst light possible and, in so doing, "provide aid and comfort to the enemy." It would be truly a shame if anyone saw the movie in such simplistic terms, especially as Yunis makes it quite clear that he was no fan of Saddam Hussein either, having suffered imprisonment and torture for daring to speak out against injustice under that regime as well. Plus, the movie emphasizes the humanity of many of the American fighters in standing up against the hellish treatment being inflicted on the prisoners under their care. Yunis speaks in glowing terms of some of these men, and it is clear that, through the experience, he forged lifelong relationships with a number of them. Yunis' understandable bitterness appears to extend only to the individuals responsible for his predicament, not to Americans in general.

It is a well-known, but rarely practiced, truism that the willingness to engage in honest self-criticism is the first step towards uncovering the truth and achieving justice in the world. "The Prisoner" is a small but crucial step in that direction.

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