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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alex Gibney's powerful documentary is a must-see
Alex Gibney's powerful documentary is a must-see for those who doubt the moral bankruptcy of the early years of the `War on Terror'.

President Bush, the ultimate conviction politician, showed that his elongated time as a lame duck president with the lowest ratings in history have given him a chance to reflect on his contributions to the World. Talking to The...
Published on 19 Nov 2009 by James Denselow

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
...and you dare to call me a terrorist? Very interesting documentary and worthy oscar recipient. If we know all of this stuff goes on, why are these 'democrats' not in front of a war crimes tribuneral at the Hague?
Published on 17 Oct 2011 by N. Blaney


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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alex Gibney's powerful documentary is a must-see, 19 Nov 2009
By 
James Denselow "James Denselow" (London UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
Alex Gibney's powerful documentary is a must-see for those who doubt the moral bankruptcy of the early years of the `War on Terror'.

President Bush, the ultimate conviction politician, showed that his elongated time as a lame duck president with the lowest ratings in history have given him a chance to reflect on his contributions to the World. Talking to The Times onboard Air Force One the President bemoaned his image as a warmonger suggesting that "in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric,". Yet it is the reality of his policies, not his rhetoric, which will be his most enduring legacy.

Nowhere is this more disturbing than the US descent into barbarism. Extraordinary rendition, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Water boarding - the last 7 years have added a new lexicon of vocabulary that describes how `fighting terror' has warped America's moral compass. Alex Gibney's documentary of this descent is a well balanced and researched indictment of the failure of the Bush administration's `command responsibility' and its tragic consequences `on the ground'.
Much like the Winter Soldiers who spoke out against Vietnam, `Taxi to the Dark Side' includes the voices of those who patriotism cannot be questioned, the soldiers themselves. The documentary's underlying message is that the abuses that have emerged over the years are not simply the work of `bad apples' but rather are the product of the policies Dick Cheney outlined five days after 9/11: "We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective".
The professionally trained killers that the US sent to fight its global wars therefore travelled with only a loose code of conduct informed by the use of `any means at our disposal'. When an administration at first ignores and then proceeds to selectively interpret the Geneva conventions, abuses are certain to occur.

Indeed the `gloves are off mentality' that followed 9/11 is shown to have led directly to the killings of prisoners in detention. `Taxi to the Dark Side' places the macro-impact of US policies in the context of the micro-impact of one man - Dilwar. This 22-year old taxi driver found himself arrested by Afghan militiamen who were working with the US (the same militiamen were later found to have been the ones firing rockets at the US base - a worrying phenomena when allied with the statistic that only 7% of those held at Guantanamo Bay were arrested by US forces). Dilwar died as a result of beatings he received during his interrogations. The `gloves were off' to such an extent that his legs had been pulpified and if he'd survived would have had to have been amputated, one of his interrogators explained that it was the `us against them' mentality that drove this level of hostility towards detainees.

Lawyers like John Yoo were then used to provide a labyrinth of legal buffers that would justify America's new hardline approach to bringing terrorists to account - defining torture as pain equivalent to "death or organ failure,". President Bush announced in his 2003 State of the Union address that "one by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice". Yet this justice was to be dispensed without trials in Guantanamo Bay, a physical loophole location that became what the documentary called a `laboratory for behavioral techniques' including sensory deprivation (blindfolded, earmuffs, forced sleep loss, stress positions) and targeting `detainee specific phobias' (hence the use of nudity and dogs in Abu Ghraib - as Arab men are supposedly susceptible to sexual humiliation and canines)

Professor Alfred McCoy explained the increase in American use of torture as a continuation of over 50 years of "undetected cancer inside the US intelligence community". This trend has been reinforced post 9/11 by popular culture that has grown into a constituency that condones torture. This is the `Jack Bauer' effect- that sells a doomsday hypothetical `ticking boom' scenario as almost standard operating procedure and the only protection from the mushroom cloud alternative.

"Taxi to the Dark Side" is a sobering lesson in the dangers of unchecked power been given to those who are at the sharp end of our wars. Dostoevsky famously once said that "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons", if America is to rediscover its moral compass it must ensure proper justice for all.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Factual Film Making, 15 Jan 2010
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
It takes a wise head to create a balanced view over an emotive subject - and Alex Gibney has shown that he is more than up to the task with this documentary film.

The lack of compassion shown towards fellow human beings is astounding, but Gibney does not demand the heads of the direct perpetrators. He steers a course which allows the audience to an enlightened position where it is obvious who the real 'villains' are - not the order taking soldiers that have been brutalised and desensitised by their training and the patriotic rhetoric of a wounded giant, but rather the senior political figures that stay behind their multi-levels of protection and wealth, whilst steering lesser mortals along a path of extreme immorality and depravity.

Such films as this are an essential part of creating empathy across cultural divides.

Quite simply, this is brilliant film making.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taxi To The Dark Side, 25 April 2008
By 
Oli (Andover, Hampshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
Having been recommended this on BBC iPlayer a few weeks ago, I wasn't that optimistic about this, yet another 'war on terror' documentary. However, this film is superb, offering a diverse array of interviews and examples to illustrate how far we have descended from the moral high ground in the ongoing war on terrorism. As someone who is generally supportive of the ongoing military campaign in Afghanistan, I can say this film is no Michael Moore-style Bush-bash, but a rounded and thoroughly disturbing insight into the practical implications of assymetric warfare. Indeed, whilst it is easy to condemn torture under any circumstances, it is hard not to empathise with the lowly soldiers, deserted by their superiors, having followed ambiguous orders to get information from detainees. Thoroughly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Watch, Important Polemical Documentary Critical of Torture by American Soldiers, 11 Aug 2008
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
Having seen "Taxi to the Dark Side" nearly two months ago at a private screening in midtown Manhattan (New York, NY USA), my mind is still reeling from the harsh, brutal images of torture committed by United States soldiers against suspected terrorists and irregulars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This may be the most important documentary film on the "War on Terror", and while it is a liberal polemic film, it does an effective job of arguing its case by showing its graphic images, instead of having someone like filmmaker Michael Moore seen onscreen ranting and raving. The central saga which runs through the nearly two-hour long film is the last taxi ride of a young Afghan taxi driver, Dilawar, an innocent bystander who was picked up by American troops, tortured, and died from his severe injuries at the American detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan.

"Taxi to the Dark Side" deserves the ample recognition it has earned, and may be remembered as a superb documentary film in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame". But it isn't perfect for the following reasons. First it accepts as gospel truth, the fact that most of those being held by American soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba are as innocent as Dilawar was. Second it lacks more insightful analysis from the likes of noted military defense attorney Eugene Fidell, who represented my cousin, former U. S. Army chaplain James Yee (Much to my amazement, Yee's filmed testimony was not included at all in the final cut of this film.). Will "Taxi to the Dark Side" change the opinions of many? Hopefully it will force those who've seen it to ask serious, probing questions about inhumane treatment of prisoners by some American soldiers, and perhaps persuade them to convince the Federal political leadership in Washington, D. C. to act more aggressively to avert similar instances of prisoner mistreatment in the future.
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67 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A horrifying Oscar winning documentary, 23 April 2008
By 
simonpeggfan (Maidenhead UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
This is a brutal, agonizing and exhausting journey that doesn't pull any punches. No government double-speak to hide the unpleasant parts - just pure evil.

Starting with an innocent Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by American interrogators, the film shows the atrocities committed by the Bush administration in the name of American people and the ill-defined 'war on terror'. 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.

Everyone that cares about freedom and the sanctity of the individual should see this film.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Watch, Important Polemical Documentary Critical of Torture by American Soldiers, 11 Aug 2008
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
Having seen "Taxi to the Dark Side" nearly two months ago at a private screening in midtown Manhattan (New York, NY USA), my mind is still reeling from the harsh, brutal images of torture committed by United States soldiers against suspected terrorists and irregulars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This may be the most important documentary film on the "War on Terror", and while it is a liberal polemic film, it does an effective job of arguing its case by showing its graphic images, instead of having someone like filmmaker Michael Moore seen onscreen ranting and raving. The central saga which runs through the nearly two-hour long film is the last taxi ride of a young Afghan taxi driver, Dilawar, an innocent bystander who was picked up by American troops, tortured, and died from his severe injuries at the American detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan.

"Taxi to the Dark Side" deserves the ample recognition it has earned, and may be remembered as a superb documentary film in the tradition of Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame". But it isn't perfect for the following reasons. First it accepts as gospel truth, the fact that most of those being held by American soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba are as innocent as Dilawar was. Second it lacks more insightful analysis from the likes of noted military defense attorney Eugene Fidell, who represented my cousin, former U. S. Army chaplain James Yee (Much to my amazement, Yee's filmed testimony was not included at all in the final cut of this film.). Will "Taxi to the Dark Side" change the opinions of many? Hopefully it will force those who've seen it to ask serious, probing questions about inhumane treatment of prisoners by some American soldiers, and perhaps persuade them to convince the Federal political leadership in Washington, D. C. to act more aggressively to avert similar instances of prisoner mistreatment in the future.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Dead wrong' -- literally, 5 Mar 2009
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
Finally! -- a documentary that makes no excuses for the behavior of U.S. military personnel in torturing people and which puts the so-called 'war on terrorism' into a much clearer perspective for viewers worldwide.

As the title of this documentary implies, this is a dark (and often depressing) film. The torture-induced homicide of Dilawar, an innocent Afghan taxi driver, by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan serves as the focus of the movie, which then goes on to explore the U.S. torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The common thread of torture as an officially permitted policy of the former Bush administration links these three internationally condemned prisons, and through the film's narrative, director Alex Gibney does a good job of holding both lower-ranking and higher-ranking U.S. military people accountable.

This point was a major weakeness of another movie on the subject, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" by filmmaker Rory Kennedy of the politically powerful Kennedy clan. Rory Kennedy's film (correctly) puts the blame for torture on the Bush administration and U.S. military brass -- yet the director herself describes the lower-ranking U.S. soldiers involved in torture at Abu Ghraib as quote-unquote "sweet" and "likable" young persons. This kind of liberal thinking comes across as not only condescending but also downright insulting to the morals of decent people around the world.

Fortunately, director Gibney seems to have learned well from Kennedy's mistakes and has made what is, in my opinion, the best documentary on this subject so far. Apparently the elite of Hollywood thought so too, for "Taxi to the Dark Side" won an Academy Award in 2007 for best documentary feature. Very unusual, yes, but understandable when you watch this film and see how well it is edited and produced.

The movie is divided into chapter subtitles on the screen, making it easier for viewers to follow a plot that can get complicated at times. I also liked the use of graphics and music -- and especially the lack of humour that you would find in, say, a Michael Moore movie on the same subject. "Taxi to the Dark Side" stays serious from beginning to end, yet manages to inform and educate without preaching to the choir.

The part of the movie that I found most enraging was the sheer arrogance of some U.S. military personnel, as characterized in the comments by U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Curtis, an MP at the Bagram base, in explaining why he did not step in and stop the torture of the Afghan taxi driver, Dilawar, before he was killed in U.S. custody. Curtis says in the film, quote: "It was us against them. I was over there, I didn't want to appear to be going against my fellow soldiers. Is that wrong? You could sit here and say that was dead wrong. Go over there [to Afghanistan] and say that".

My response to Sgt. Curtis and any others like him would be simply this: You and your fellow soldiers were *all* wrong -- dead wrong, literally -- regardless of where that homicide took place. By not appearing to go against your fellow soldiers, you indeed saved their face and yours....but in the process, you went against the norms of all civilised people everywhere who hold higher moral values than that. Take responsibility for that, sergeant, and feel ashamed.

Beyond that, I highly commend director Alex Gibney for standing up and making a film that is not afraid to place the responsibility where it really lies: in the conscience of every U.S. citizen. A dark and depressing movie it is, but that is only because the so-called 'war on terror' itself is dark. By shedding some light on the dark side, Gibney and his staff have indeed done a great service to us all.

If there was any weakness in this movie, I think it would be that the focus was on interviews with U.S. military insiders. That is fine, but I would have liked to have seen more interviews with former prisoners than just the one interview conducted with Moazzam Begg, the British citizen who was unjustly imprisoned at Afghanistan (at the same time as Dilawar, the taxi driver) and later at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But so powerful is Begg's testimony in this film that such a weakness could easily be overlooked in following the much bigger picture.

Now, with this excellent film having been made, the next logical step would be to link the recent cases of U.S. military torture of brown-skinned people overseas to the longtime, routine torture of brown-skinned people within the vast domestic prison system of the United States. Any takers out there among filmmakers to produce a documentary that directly links Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. jail system and U.S. prison-industrial complex?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad Shocking....Is this the Shock and Awe they wanted us to see?, 28 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
God this is sad, deeply disturbing and makes you think what help are our taxes,which fund this war as well as others, are actually doing for these people who Bush and Blair wanted to bring "democracy" too.
If you recall the Abu Gharib pictures in the media a few years ago, prisoners on dog leashes, covered in their own excrement, US army posing in the pictures etc. certain pictures were blacked out, I assumed I knew why, you know the prisoners are naked and you cant show a full frontal picture in the media etc.,God how wrong was I! The pictures are too graphic to go into detail but are shown in full on the DVD and...well buy the DVD and see why the words Disgusting, inhumane, sad, greed and oil come to mind.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential as well as painful viewing., 8 Aug 2008
By 
Joakim Kilman "Mister" (Sweden) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
This award winning documentary should be mandatory viewing for anyone interested in what's going on in the world today. It's about the injustices and violations on human rights that are being committed by the United States in the middle east in general, and about the case of a young man named Dilawar in particular. Dilawar was tortured to death by American interrogators.
This is a masterfully done documentary. It's well founded and free from Michael Moore-like speculation. It's engaging, and it's based mainly on interviews from people who where actually there, as well as on documents, news clips where Cheney more or less admitts to supporting the use of torture (although he constantly disuises his words in metaphors), and much more.
You owe it to yourself to see this film. It will make you upset, sad and angry, but you need to see this. Above all, you owe it to Dilawar to see this film. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. What if it had been your brother?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oscar winning documentary!!!, 16 July 2008
This review is from: Taxi to the Dark Side [DVD] (DVD)
This frank documentary starts off following an afghan taxi driver who was captured and tortured to death by US interrogators! From that point on it chronicles the in-depth torture practices of the US in Afghanistan! A very moving documentary and well worthy of its oscar win!!
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