Sunday, June 30

Dirty Wars Review

Dirty Wars
Dir: Rick Rowley

War never ends it only changes. This is the underlying theme in Rick Rowley’s bleak yet intriguing documentary Dirty Wars. Narrator and national security correspondent Jeremy Scahill, who also co-wrote the film, investigates the seen and unseen elements of the war on terror and the effects through numerous regions in the Middle East. The result is an immersive film that feels like a detective story, though the reality is a documentary that doesn’t shy away from shocking and thought provoking questions.

Scahill introduces the film through a lens of noir-like cinematography. The film wastes no time getting into the bulk of the subject matter, sending Scahill to Gardez, Afghanistan to investigate the deaths of two pregnant women and an American trained police commander named Mohammed Daoud. These three people were killed during a night raid that was denied by American officials, though video footage displays military personnel recovering bullets from bodies. Scahill is consumed, dedicating his professional life to investigate other covert night raids conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). This group operates under the radar and in countries where war hasn’t been declared, a blanket security agency operating on a global front.

The film moves progressively through Scahill’s investigation, which started in February of 2010. Allowing the unraveling secrets to be uncovered at the same measure as Scahill discovered them. This keeps the film unusually thrilling from start to finish. The film doesn’t shy away from gruesome footage (audiences be warned), unflinchingly showcasing footage of young children killed during drone attacks and other combat related violence. It’s devastating to view from the perspective of the families going through it, especially the emotion in the eyes of a young girl telling the story of how she lost her entire family. It’s difficult to execute a film like Dirty Wars, which rests so candidly on the controversial button, without it feeling overwhelmingly conspiratorial. This aspect is accomplished because much of what Scahill is investigating, minus the bigger revelations, hasn’t been denied by any kind of authority. And, as history progressed, the secret JSOC organization being investigated was positioned front and center after Osama bin Laden was killed in the well-known night raid operation.

The faltering point in this film exists in the examination of Scahill’s personal life, painting him through focused cinematography as a target. Though his story is separately interesting, as the media portrays his findings as speculation and conspiracy, the shift in perspective distracts from the important questions raised. As the film develops the emphasis changes from situational analysis to self-inquiry, focusing more on the absorbing examination and future effect on the world due to the involvement of United States. What enemies are being created? Are the so-called victories in the Middle East short-term advantages? The undeniable deep wounds being made ask difficult questions of the viewer in the final minutes.

Dirty Wars is a captivating film that builds, through a detective style analysis, towards demanding questions positioned at the viewer. Though documentaries usually examine both sides of the coin, in the case of Dirty Wars the coin is undoubtedly tarnished on both sides yet the questions poised offer important perspective for the future.

Monte’s Rating
4.00 out of 5.00

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