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Review: Taxi to the Dark Side

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and Taxi to the Dark Side has plenty of it.

Taxi to the Dark Side
Photo: THINKFilm

The subject of Taxi to the Dark Side is torture and accountability in the War on Terror, and director Alex Gibney suggests a certain precedent was set for our country’s systematic abuse of suspected terrorists when an innocent taxi driver named Dilawar died at the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan after several days of severe beatings. From Bagram to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo, Gibney cunningly traces links up and down the chain of command, exposing how the White House has given more than tacit support to inhuman methods of detention and interrogation. Gibney’s rage is filtered through an intelligent and compassionate sensibility, as in his interviews with former soldiers responsible for the death of Dilawar. Riddled with remorse, these men elaborate on the extent of their violence, and though Gibney does not absolve them of culpability, he does delve into the manner in which highers-up, almost unconsciously, exploit the instincts of soldiers under their watch. Abuse is scarily sanctioned from an intangible psychological command center, and one notable talking head explains how sicking muzzle-less dogs on Abu Ghraib prisoners may not have been condoned but how the removal of muzzles is something almost innate for a soldier who realizes that a dog unable to bark or bite poses little danger to a prisoner. Gibney presents this scenario as only one example of how men and women convicted of torture are easily and cruelly made into scapegoats. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and Taxi has plenty of it: Gibney’s litany of how-did-he-land-them interviews (among them torture architect John Yoo), previously seen news clips that are scarier than ever given their new context, and previously unseen photos and video from Abu Ghraib, not to mention a recreation of how torture is conducted in Guantanamo staged as a stylish how-to manual of sorts, aims for—and successfully shoots at—snakes like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and exists to further catalog and expose the Bush administration’s crimes against humanity.

Director: Alex Gibney Distributor: THINKFilm Running Time: 106 min Rating: NR Year: 2007 Buy: Video

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