Taxi to the Dark Side

"Excellent"

Taxi to the Dark Side Review


Many Americans have not been terribly thrilled about their country's name being associated many times over the past few years with episodes of prisoner abuse and torture that would have seemed downright abhorrent to our forefathers. This is understandable, as the practices of setting dogs on naked prisoners, denying that the right to habeas corpus has any real applicability, and using sensory deprivation techniques thought to have been discontinued years ago all have a tendency to conflict with the way that many citizens prefer to see their own country. A very flawed but still noble paragon of some sort of justice and democracy, that sort of thing. But for some reason, this recoiling from ugly and un-American practices hasn't been universal. A random sampling of the citizenry would most likely (if years worth of polling, and a general lack of public outrage, can be believed) come up with a good number of people who may not like torturing all them Middle Easterners, but hey, it's an ugly world....

It's for those people in particular that Alex Gibney's deeply unsettling documentary Taxi to the Dark Side should be required viewing, though just about any citizen should feel the film worthy of their time. Gibney, who did a smart job of untangling the tortured and headache-inducing mess that was the Enron case with 2005's Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, does similarly swift work here cleaving through the morass of obfuscation and half-truths that have veiled the country's involvement in torture and extralegal detention since 9/11.

As an entree into the matter, he uses the story of Afghani taxi driver Dilawar, who in 2002 was picked up by some militiamen who accused him and his passengers of aiding and abetting a rocket attack on a nearby American base. In short order, Dilawar is processed into the detention center at Bagram Air Base and subjected to a range of coercion and abuse, ranging from being hung by his shackled wrists from the ceiling for hours at a time to severe beating. Dilawar died. An autopsy then revealed that his legs had been so severely pounded by the guards that if he hadn't died, they would have to have been amputated. As far as can be determined, nobody questioning him knew why he was there, except that he had been suspected of something. It was later revealed that the men who had turned Dilawar in had themselves attacked the Americans and were looking for a stooge -- and reward money.

From Dilawar's sad and purposeless death -- related via an incredible gallery of witnesses, including many of the untrained and confused Bagram guards who had gotten the message from higher up that, as the infamous phrase goes, the gloves were off -- Gibney spirals his story outward to encompass the whole of the Bush administration's post-9/11 attitude toward torture, detention, and the rules of war. Instead of deploying the expected battery of anti-Bush experts and investigative journalists (though the latter are present), Gibney turns instead to the people who were in the thick of things, not just the previously mentioned guards (who knew that the brass wanted them to toss out the Geneva Convention but would be left out to dry afterward because no explicit order was ever given) but people like the Navy's former general counsel, Alberto Mora, and FBI interrogator Jack Cloonan.

Having the likes of Mora (who vociferously protested the illegal and immoral ways in which codes of military conduct were being bent by Rumsfeld and Cheney's seeming eagerness to engage in the same barbarities as the Taliban and al-Qaeda) and Cloonan (who, from extensive experience, ridicules the notion that torture can ever elicit useful intelligence), turns Taxi to the Dark Side not into just a moral polemic but a serious policy argument about the future of the country. Along the way, Gibney also handily demolishes the fallacy of the "ticking time bomb" scenario always envisioned by pro-torture advocates. The film downs such arguments as mere wishful thinking by those looking for reasons not to follow codes of conduct once so quaintly thought of as civilizing factors that highlighted the greatness of America, not weaknesses. Ably illustrating that final point is the coda, in which Gibney shows his recently-deceased father, a former military interrogator himself, saying in no uncertain terms exactly how everything from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib had sickened him and practically unseated his previously firm belief in his own country's goodness.

It would be nice to think that there are many others out there like Gibney's father, who hold such beliefs so close to their heart. The dreadful silence that has followed much of the debate, however, and the general lack of interest in such necessary films like Taxi to the Dark Side, doesn't give much reason for hope.

60 cents a mile.



Taxi to the Dark Side

Facts and Figures

Run time: 106 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd January 2009

Box Office Worldwide: $274.7 thousand

Budget: $1000 thousand

Distributed by: ThinkFilm

Production compaines: Jigsaw Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 91

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Eva Orner, Susannah Shipman

Starring: Brian Keith Allen as Soldier - New York studio shoot reenactment, Moazzam Begg as Himself - Torture Victim (as Moazzam Beg), Christopher Beiring as Himself - Captain, as Narrator (voice)

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.