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Taxi to the Dark Side

(2008) *** 1/2 R
106 min. ThinkFilm. Director: Alex Gibney. Cast: Moazzam Begg, William Brand, Jack Cloonan, Damien Corsetti, Carlotta Gall.
The Abu Ghraib controversy sparked a national debate on torture that has yet to calm. Were the horrors of Abu Ghraib the work of "a few bad apples" or a systematic, tacitly authorized approach to war-on-terror confinement? American war crimes and end runs around the Constitution and the Geneva conventions are the subjects at the heart of Alex Gibney's new documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side. Gibney frames the film with the emblematic case of Dilawar, an Afghani taxi driver who was held, interrogated, beaten, sleep-deprived, threatened by dogs, and subjected to forced standing by overhead shackling before dying in American custody. An impressive collection of commentators gives perspective: a former detainee convinced that such techniques surely create terrorists of innocents, American service personnel who assert that "the brass knew" and explain the psychology behind poorly trained interrogators "pushing limits," and various politicians and reporters of note. As he did in his film ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Gibney applies scrupulous technique to damn unscrupulous behavior.
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