Taxi to the Dark Side Alex Gibney

Taxi to the Dark Side Alex Gibney
The documentary Oscar winner for 2007 is, surprise, a very good movie. If it’s nobody’s idea of radical it’s still ethically committed and rigorous in examining America’s downward slide into condoning torture. Director Alex Gibney tells the story of an Afghani taxi driver who was picked up on tenuous grounds and found himself on the receiving end of American vengeance. Tortured in his country’s notorious Bagram Air Force Base, he died after being kicked in the legs more times than any human could endure. Gibney uses this saga to examine how ground-level soldiers, from Abu Ghraib to Gitmo, were set up to do things against their moral leanings, how interrogation techniques were geared to degrade and dehumanize the prisoners, how methods were left vague in order to facilitate abuse and how, after the crimes were revealed, it was used as an excuse to legally implement, rather than violently reject, torture as a method. The film has its handful of stretched points — I somehow think 24 is not exactly crucial to the discussion — but mostly it stays on-topic in its revelation of how grey areas were exploited, when not outright fabricated, to implement what ultimately amounts to revenge before gathering intelligence. Gibney’s vision is that of puppet masters and pawns in which people on the ground in both camps find themselves put to terrible ends beyond what the administration admits, and that of power angling to uncheck itself to an extent far beyond what even it could construe as useful. This is a powerful documentary that you shouldn’t miss. Extras include a Gibney commentary that’s more committed than informative, deleted scenes and interviews, a couple of TV puff pieces with some creepily insincere interviewers and a chat with Gibney’s late, disillusioned intelligence officer father. (Seville)