Taxi to the Dark Side (2006) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: 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. Runtime: 106 mins Release Date: 31 Dec 2006
How can anyone claim this film is biased? (by ruhi-yaman)
This horrifying documentary won the Oscar for 2007. Using the case of an innocent Afghan taxi driver who were tortured to death by American interrogators in Bagram prison as the starting point, the film chronicles the atrocities committed by the Bush administration in the name of American people and an ill-defined 'war on terror'.The film is written, directed and narrated by Alex Gibney, son of a high-ranking naval officer who was an interrogator in World War II. A great American and a true patriot, Frank Gibney's final disappointment of what became of the great nation of the <more>
United States in the hands of a few liars is heart-wrenching.There is not a single frame in the film that is not supported by hard evidence. All of the investigation was conducted by Americans whose credentials of decency and patriotism are above suspicion. The film is a chronicle of how paranoia, self-serving deceit and mere stupidity can threaten the very values a great nation was built on. It should be impossible for anyone who watches this meticulous document to ever criticize the veracity of claims put forward by the recent films, Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, or Redacted - flawed as films though that they were. Every person in the world, especially every American, that cares about the true nature of freedom and the sanctity of the individual the basic tenets on which America was built should see this film. How could anyone claim that it would be loved only by the supporters of Taliban is beyond me.
Yep, it is another one of those Iraq and Afghanistan documentaries. I know the burnout rate is high on these, which is probably why I almost did not bother, but nothing else was showing. Man, was I happy I saw this! It has rekindled my hate for the Bush administration, which had turned to apathy over the last year. This tells the story of an Afghani taxi driver that is mistakenly picked up as a Taliban supporter, but before they find out he was innocent, he has been beaten to death by his American torturers.This film has interviews from all of the guards that were responsible, JAG officers, <more>
FBI people, CIA agents on the ground etc. And you see that all of the blame lies with Ashcroft and the Bushies, who gave one vague order after another that they wanted confessions and they wanted them quickly, with a wink and a nod about what kind of methods to use. So you have these frustrated high school drop-outs presiding over these people thousands of miles from anywhere, and they won't confess. So, beatings and humiliations follow. And when the crap comes out, the Bush administration passes a bill that absolves all higher-ups from any responsibility and they start to bust the enlisted men and women, who were following orders. Pathetic. Of course, we also find out that over 95% of the prisoners being held, were captured by Pakistanis and Northern Alliance people, WHO were paid by the US government for each person they turned over, guilty or not guilty. And you wonder why meaningful confessions were so hard to come by. It reminds me of the scene from Full Metal Jacket, where the psycho army guy shoots the Vietnamese farmers from his helicopter. He says the ones that run are VC, the ones that don't run are well trained VC. Very tragic.
Must-see documentary is very nearly unwatchable at times. (by gregv2k)
Much like the director's Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, the subject of Taxi to the Dark Side carries the dual burdens of public burnout and simultaneous public smugness. We're tired of hearing of prisoner abuse, and moreover, we think we know all there is to know about it anyway.I wouldn't have guessed that I could be affected by unedited imagery from Abu Gahrib but as it turns out, it's 24 hours since I saw TTTDS and I can't shake the images from my head. Many will want to hide their eyes from what our own tax dollars hath wrought, and perhaps some will be right to <more>
do so. This is a brutal, agonizing, blistering and exhausting journey that doesn't pull any punches. No digital scrambling or government double-speak to hide the unpleasant parts - just pure evil.The screening audience was active with conversation when the lights came up and one was heard to say that this was a truer documentary than any created by Michael Moore. I don't know what that means, but without a doubt no documentary I have ever seen has gotten under my skin to such a degree. What makes it brilliant is that it captures, simultaneously, the evil that men and women do AND the faith that we all carry for greater human achievement.A college professor once described "Schindler's List" as the story of God's grace in a godless place. What's agonizing about TTTDS is that for much of the film God is nowhere to be found, beyond the desperate screams of "Allah" as extricated from captives by US Soldiers given no direction and without a magnetic north in their moral compass.Those who not only condone but advocate the horrors on display in this film are all here, in their own words, to justify their leadership with the talking points we've heard again and again over the past 5 years. In the context of Bagram and Guantanamo Bay their words take on a sinister edge I'd not heard before. I can't recommend this film highly enough, nor can I suggest more strongly that you do not know what you're in for.
Pointing out serious problems does not make this film Anti-American (by imxo)
There is something you need to know about this film: it is not about real insurgents or terrorists or about real soldiers, and it is certainly not an anti-American film.It is about how senior military and civilian officials demand results from their subordinates, even if the results are to be obtained by unconscionable, immoral, and illegal means, up to, and including, torture and murder. The fact that many of these results - what the military like to call "the mission" - are faked or just wrong is of no particular concern to them. Naturally, you'll never find a document signed <more>
by any of those officials advocating torture and murder. The most you'll ever find is a reference to "enhanced interrogation techniques" i.e., torture . And if a detainee dies, the senior officers and officials always benefit from "plausible deniability" and claim that it must be the fault of junior "bad apple" troops. If terrorists are murderers, some of our own troops have certainly engaged in murder, too. To reveal this is not anti-American; it's just a simple fact. Because the troops often do it in a group they think they're not murderers. Just as, I imagine, someone who participates in gang rape does not consider himself, individually, to be a rapist. While most Military Police MP troops are fighting hard on the ground every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, one group of troops which this film examines are those Military Police who are used as prison guards. The other troops examined in the film are some military intelligence "MI" troops employed as interrogators in prison camps.If you don't know already, Military Police are usually despised by their own troops. If you give a soldier special power over his fellow soldiers he will often abuse it. I still recall an Australian friend of mine mentioning that many of the Aussie "Red Hats" MPs who sailed for home after WWII never made it back; their fellow troops threw them overboard.The old saw about military intelligence being a contradiction in terms is never more apparent than in the case of interrogators. When you hear the word intelligence here you must forget all about spies, codes, and the stuff of James Bond novels. The interrogators of MI are an example of soldiers who are ill prepared, in general, to carry out work that would normally take years to master. They are mostly low-ranking enlisted men and women, privates and sergeants, almost none of whom speak with any proficiency the language of the detainees they're interrogating.So, imagine the scenario: senior officials demanding intelligence, no matter how it's obtained; unqualified interrogators using whatever means they can think of to satisfy their superiors' demands; and MP prison guards who have the power of life and death over their detainees, with almost no restrictions on what they can do to them. Behind all this is the unwritten understanding that if something goes wrong, the troops will probably not be prosecuted. God help the innocent person swept up into this sadistic, bureaucratic system. But as we all know, if you've been arrested, you must be guilty. Right? The elephant in the closet in all this is the Central Intelligence Agency, an organization that regards itself as above law, morality, and civilized behavior. It gets away with much of what it does by having the military, foreigners, and contractors to do its dirty work for it. And when somebody has to take a fall, well, that's what privates and sergeants are for. If your kids are MPs, interrogators, or just in the military, advise them always to watch their backs around those people.This may be a disturbing film for civilians, but it won't include many surprises if you've served in the armed forces, or on a police force, or in a prison. Those are the people who know about this, but they're not about to tell you. No wander the USA has pulled out of the War Crimes Treaty. But what officials do not want to admit, even to themselves, is that war crimes are war crimes, no matter if you're a treaty signatory or not.
Not an easy watch, but an important and excellent film (by blackburnj-1)
Too few have heard of Dilawar. Those who have will probably never forget him. Alex Gibney certainly will not. His latest film starts and ends with this poor innocent taxi driver who, in 2002, was taken to the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. Five days later, he was dead.Dilawar's death was the spark which ultimately led to the international awareness of what the Bush administration was doing to its detainees in the war on terror. Gibney's film, however, decides to look up the tree, not down, to discover who was really responsible for these unpleasant developments.Gibney's film is <more>
bolstered by frank and interesting interviews with some of the troops on the ground. Their remorse is clear, as is their disgust. And disgust is the right word. This is, by no means, an easy watch. The use of the appalling footage which has been generated by the recent conflicts is necessary because, if anyone is in any doubt about how morally reprehensible these tactics are, this film will make it abundantly clear.However, this film's real strength is the structure of its attack on the tactics that are employed. Gibney demonstrates that the tactics used are hopelessly inadequate and never yield effective information. There is a cutting and brilliant comparison with the old techniques and the new where an interviewee, a former FBI interrogator, uses his old tools of interrogation words and you can feel yourself being persuaded.This is not just a polemic. It is a human story and a powerful and well-constructed argument. It should be essential viewing as what has happened at Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib should never be forgotten. This is excellent, important film-making.4 Stars out of 5
It's a Bitter Pill - Now Take Your Medicine (by revere-7)
With a title like Taxi to the Dark Side, you know it's not going to be a light-and-fluffy film, but it's a film that needed to be made, and should be seen by everyone.The measure of a nation is how well it lives up to its ideals in the worst of times. 9/11 was that trial for America, and America failed. If you do not believe that former U.S. president George W. Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, White House Council John Yoo, and at least a half dozen other members of the Bush Administration are guilty of war crimes, you must see this <more>
documentary.Even if you suspect they do, but have lingering doubts – you must see this documentary.And especially if you don't know either way, and know nothing about this issue – you must see this documentary.This is not some sort of Michael Moore propaganda piece. This transcends partisan politics. It deals with a broader issue. It focuses on the treatment of just one detainee and will probably make you sick to your stomach – if you can stomach it at all. And then reminds you that this happened not to just one guy, but to 83,000 others too.Hell yes, its difficult to watch - there is graphic photos of torture – but is that an excuse not to watch it? The fact is they are presented because showing them is necessary to fully understand the extent of what went on. And guess what? If you are an American, you damn well should sit through this, because you are guilty too – this is what your elected officials did.Of course when word finally got out, and they got blowback for it, in an outrageous act of cowardice, they left their own subordinates out to dry.The film makes the case, clearly, efficiently and thoroughly. Which makes it not only an excellent documentary, but an important one too.
Familiar yet essential information about American policy post-9/11 (by Chris Knipp)
Taxi to the Dark Side doesn't contain anything wholly new, just more complete detail and important clarifications, such as the fact that Guantanamo uses very much the same basic methods to Abu Ghraib, though the location is cleaner and of course was not formerly used by Saddam Hussein. Dilawar, the Afghan taxi driver, was essentially beaten to death by American soldiers in the Bagram prison. He did not live long once his ill-trained but plainly-directed captors got hold of him, but his final hours were terrifying and horrible. They kicked his legs till they turned to pulp and would have <more>
had to be amputated, had he lived. A heart condition caused an embolism that went to his brain and was the cause of death, which on the official US papers given to Dilawar's family, in English so they did not know what they meant, was "homicide," but the officer in charge of the prison denied this when queried. Gibney, who was responsible previously for the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, presents interviews with some of the American soldiers responsible for Dilawar's death. They were, of course, only following orders. Other talking heads clarify the fact that the "gloves are off" policy by US authorities following 9/11/01 goes back to Cheney, approved by Bush, carried out with gusto by Rumsfeld, and sent directly down the line to the low-ranking and inexperienced people whose behavior after the Abu Ghraib scandal emerged was claimed by authorities to be that of people on the "night shift" or "a few bad apples." This film thoroughly disproves that claim.Gibney shows how the US administration has become willing to blatantly disregard the rule of law, domestic as well as international, to fight their "war on terror" in ways that involved extreme cruelty and murder. In doing this they had the assistance of various corrupt or immoral--or, if you prefer, simply very misguided--men of the law and the judiciary.The practices have been illegal. They may also have been variously unwise. The photos of Americans mistreating Muslim prisoners at Abu Ghraib are good recruiting material for anti-US terrorists. But torture also simply doesn't work, accomplishes nothing useful. Much time is given to Alfred McCoy, author of a book called 'The Question of Torture' and a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. McCoy recounts that the CIA has been working on methods of coercion for all the decades of its existence, but their experiments have yielded little except lawsuits from victimized guinea pigs. Another authority, a former CIA operative, asserts that the best method to obtain information is to gain the confidence of the prisoner and convince him you can help him.But post 9/11 "high value" prisoners were clearly tortured with anything their captors could think of--and then confessed to anything they could think of. The film clarifies that psychological experiments by Donald Hobb at McGill University in the Seventies proved sensory deprivation is the most effective means of torture; at least according to Hobb it can induce psychosis within 48 hours. The film shows that basically all "terrorism" suspects here and abroad have been subjected to sensory deprivation. That is what covering the ears, head, and hands does; and it was and is standard treatment to continue this for hours and days. This is more effective than pain. But effective at doing what? Breaking down the prisoner, not obtaining reliable information, or any information, for that matter.Hence the widely spread US policies are not only harmful, dangerous, immoral, and illegal, but stupid and, in intelligence-gathering terms, worthless.The "extraordinary rendition," waterboarding, sensory deprivation, etc. don't work in practical terms, but they have a political purpose. They convince people that the US is "getting tough" on its enemies. But the US has not been holding real enemies. If it were, the useless prisoners or wrongly captured would be filtered out, as Dilawar ought to have been. He was innocent. And now the US authorities are in a bad position. They cannot acquit even those few Guantanamo prisoners they are putting up for show trials, because to do so would reveal that they had been held for six years for no reason. That would look bad. Varieties of Orwellian terminology have been devised to describe these prisoners. The film also shows "tours" of Guantanamo and deflates the claims of the tour guides.One reason for all this is who's been in charge: a group of draft dodgers who never served in a war. Senator McCain is shown in the film as a man who opposes torture for good reason: because he experienced it during his years in a North Vietnam prison.Another issue: American has a developed a culture of guilty-as-charged, of hysterical attacks on imagined enemies. An example: the popular jingoistic TV program "24," starring Kiefer Sutherland as a CIA agent who "saves" millions by torturing mad terrorists with ticking bombs in Times Square. A Dark Side talking head says that there has never been such a person captured, and suggests that if there were, such a person would have the commitment to die rather than reveal information about his plot.I do not know if torture never gets you information, though the assertion that insinuating oneself into the confidence of a prisoner is more effective makes sense. What is clear enough from Gibney's powerful and disturbing film which contains many images not for the squeamish is that the torture and wrongful imprisonment and lawlessness of the US as a nation post-9/11 indicate a country that has become very cruel and very stupid.Andrew O'Hehir of Salon.com recounts that at a post-screening Q&A when Gibney was asked what he would like his film to accomplish, he said "I hope it provokes some rage." "Well," says O'Hehir, "it worked on me." May it work on everyone who sees it.
A point of view well substantiated with facts. (by Michael Fargo)
This film is a worthy attempt to bring what has become a familiar subject throughout the Bush years without necessarily giving the other side an opportunity to state their case. While I personally support what the film is saying about questionable, even criminal policies of the Bush Administration's view on "interrogation" as a betrayal of all this country holds dear, the film leaves itself open to attack which is unfortunate. Tidbits are cherry picked from interviews and Congressional testimony, and while it's understandable that major players didn't want to sit down <more>
and give an interview, it's glaring that they aren't given an chance to explain why they've said what they said. I'll acknowledge the filmmaker probably has it right, but nevertheless, it's an unfair tactic.The chief first hand accounts of information are from U.S. Military personnel who have been convicted of crimes with the exception of one British national who has a harrowing, convincing story to tell . While what they have to say is compelling, the absence of any testimony of those who gave them those orders is absent. We have their attorneys or third parties removed to interpret what happened...or might have happened. While I couldn't be more sympathetic to the bind we've placed our young men and women in, the last thing I wanted to hear from an individual who's been convicted of torture and "wrongful death" labeled a homicide by the coroner is "I'm financially ruined." The moral quandary raised by the film isn't nearly answered until the final credits roll.And where is Congress? Where is the oversight they are obligated to perform? Oh, they're holding hearings on steroid use in baseball.We're never sure exactly what we're looking at. "Reenactments" are identified briefly, but clearly there is a lot that isn't documentary footage, and the famous photos of Abu Ghrabib reappear over and over frequently out of context. This is a shameful chapter in American history, and it needs a less doctrinaire film to expose what are, as pointed out, crimes of war. One of the most effective moments is when the filmmaker's father appears over the closing credits. He is a former interrogator in WWII. His outrage rings true, and it should be every American's cry as well.
In addition to objectively painting a portrait of a given subject matter, a documentary is usually expected to be an exposé of said subject matter; a story you've never heard, or a story you've heard before, but not in "this way." Though engrossing and often gross, the real weakness of Taxi to the Dark Side is the fact that it's the same story told in pretty much the same way we've always heard: poor leadership within the U.S. administration led to poor decision-making on the ground, which led to poor detainees being treated poorly. Everyone's guilty but no one <more>
is to blame. This circuitous chaos is the subject matter and not the fault of Alex Gibney, but I hold him accountable for not telling me anything I didn't already know about it and for thoroughly confusing me with years and locations . If there was ever an instance of preaching to the choir, this was it. Why did I expect more? Because Gibney's Enron was a triumph - as much as you knew about that scandal which was probably not much , he laid out a linear, exacting argument that left no room for debate. As ironic as it seems to say so, Taxi to the Dark Side is not going to convince anyone of anything. You either think torture is bad, or you think torture is good. I really don't see a middle ground, and if you're in the second group you won't change your mind from what Gibney presents, you'll just shrug your shoulders. For a brief moment he actually starts to get creative as we hear from a former FBI interrogator whose interrogation techniques were effective and peaceful as much as he exaggerated . That started to be convincing, so why did it end? And what about the 30 second insight into how torture has been embraced by the American public thanks to the likes of 24? That's an interesting place to go, but we're left with more polarizing soundbites from Bush. How about the flash-quick glimpse into the future repercussions from torture survivors? Gibney even pushes his own personal connection to torture to the credits. Where was that the whole time? The short of it is, by focusing on the same old details and using some pretty tired arguments, Gibney prevents his merely good work from achieving real excellence. Though it's a good excuse to get angry for a few hours, Taxi to the Dark Side can really only be recommended for anyone who has had their head in the sand for the last five years.