A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century."
Jean François Heckel,
In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Clifton Collins Jr.,
Using the torture and death in 2002 of an innocent Afghan taxi driver as the touchstone, this film examines changes after 9/11 in U.S. policy toward suspects in the war on terror. Soldiers, their attorneys, one released detainee, U.S. Attorney John Yoo, news footage and photos tell a story of abuse at Bagram Air Base, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay. From Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Gonzalez came unwritten orders to use any means necessary. The CIA and soldiers with little training used sleep deprivation, sexual assault, stress positions, waterboarding, dogs and other terror tactics to seek information from detainees. Many speakers lament the loss of American ideals in pursuit of security. Written by
inspires the righteous outrage every American (or just anyone period) should have about torture "policies"
Taxi to the Dark Side accomplishes what a documentary, or just a concise analysis, regarding all of the facts in one of the many nightmares the United States' involvement in the middle east should: to inspire the utmost disgust and condemnation of a system that has become as corrupt as it has (or rather always has been with this bunch). It's uncontainable to think how all of this started, grew exponentially, and resulted ultimately in the horrors at Abu Gharyb and Guantanamo Bay, in that it is nestled in the twisted, criminal (yes folks, criminal) 'policies' of the Bush administration. But Alex Gibney's approach isn't narrow-minded but multi-faceted: he's interested in what a complex, ugly organism torture has become, the psychological just as much as the physical, and he has a man at the center of it. Dilawar, an innocent taxi driver from a poor farm in Afghanistan, was swept up by three other Afghan soldiers and sent to Bagram prison, where along with other supposed terrorists or terrorist collaborators was tortured (in his case especially in brutal fashion, as we learn in graphic description from those who participated first-hand), and died from the trauma.
His death was a controversy, but not one that ever got the kind of attention it deserved; until this documentary I never even heard of Dilawar or even much about Bagram prison. Yet it was at this prison, as well as the first biggie interrogation of the would-be 20th hijacker of the plane on 9/11 to crash in Pennsylvania (which, by false confession, led to an over-excited but false-rooted assumption that Al Quaeda had links to Baghdad), that led to Abu Gharyb, which revealed the horrors of soldiers in unyielding terror over their subjects but, more importantly, the virus that spread through the chain of command. Gibney's approach is approximate and expertly probing: it's not enough to just focus of Dilawar (even as his story could make up a whole legitimate documentary alone), or on Abu Gharyb. As in his previous film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, it's essential to dissect this wretched beast from top to bottom, to see not simply the soldiers first-hand accounts, but straight from the horse's mouth the words from Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Bush himself.
Because, in reality, there is something to feel sorry for with these soldiers. It can be argued, and not without just cause, that what the soldiers did at Bagram, Abu Gharyb, and to an extent even at GITMO, was wrong and rotten and they could have said no and so on and so forth. However, as with the ground war situation in Iraq, it's all about the chain of command, and the fact that no matter what the parties initially responsible are not held accountable for any of their actions. It's almost frightening to forget the amount of footage available with these men like Rumsfeld and Gonzalez and Cheney where they not only admit to being fine with torture tactics - and whether or not it's psychological torture or not is besides the point as ALL torture IS torture, albeit a facet that Gibney brilliantly chronicles in the history of the CIA to its 'logical' extension in recent years - but set it up in legal wrangling so as to not get it any trouble for what they've done which is, of course, breaking Geneva conventions and whatnot.
If I sound like I'm sounding bias with this, then you should leave this review right now. There is no bias when it comes to this issue (or rather there SHOULD be no bias, as for a split second McCain showed until he relented recently that torture isn't as bad as he used to think). What one sees as the line between what is proper interrogation of a subject and outright abuse to get that "ticking time-bomb" is revealed by Kloogman from the FBI, who paraphrases how an interrogation would usually be done and lays it on the line that this form has actually had results - not pain and death or, at best, a bull**** court at GITMO where it's like a joke Kafka wouldn't write. Gibney presents all the information with the bluntness that's required, with testimony, footage from press conferences and commissions (i.e. that cringe-inducing bit with Gonzalez where he has a horrible pause when trying to answer a simple question about whether or not to condone torture), and it's presented lucidly, edited for a cumulative effect and with the skill of a filmmaker in total trust with his subject(s) to take all of the pieces into a whole that shakes one to the core.
And all of this would be powerful enough to make an impact, but with the recent explosion of news coverage on water-boarding - and that the CIA has admitted to torturing three subjects - Taxi to the Dark Side remains startlingly relevant. In fact, it's even more tragically relevant than last year's Sicko or even No End in Sight. From the tragedy of Dilawar to the tragedy of Abu Gharyb, which was like Salo turned into as shockingly real as could never be imaginable, the Bush administration has put the US into even more danger than ever before by resorting to the lowest form of humanity, condoning acts to the soldiers that sixty years ago would never be committed in the harshest of circumstances on our side. This, again, isn't some silly bias, this is just fact. It's enough to make one sick to one's stomach, and as long as a film such as this exists, the pain can't be brushed aside or dulled by diverting network news.
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