TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (Alex Gibney) Rating: NNNNN
I’ve never been so happy to be wrong in my life. I picked No End In Sight to win best documentary this year, but the winner was the much more deserving Taxi To The Dark Side, Alex Gibney’s excellent yet harrowing look at detainee abuse by American soldiers and spies. It screens this week as part of the Human Rights Watch Festival at Cinematheque.
The film begins with the case of Dilawar, a taxi driver who died in U.S. military custody in Bagram, Afghanistan, under the “care” of interrogators who were later put in charge of Abu Ghraib.
The film then moves to the legal definition of torture, the prison at Guantánamo Bay and how the higher-ups in the chain of command evaded punishment through legal doublespeak. Gibney covers a lot of ground by alternating talking-head interviews with graphic photos and torture re-enactments, keeping the brisk 106 minutes from feeling overstuffed or oversimplified.
If there’s one flaw, it’s the choice of Dilawar as the jumping-off point. After his death the film focuses on other issues, returning to him only at the end, which makes him feel less like a person and more like a hook.
But that’s a minor problem. Forget Michael Moore’s Sicko; Gibney’s film is truly sick-making. Taxi To The Dark Side will make you nauseous – and angry with the Bush administration all over again.