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  Taxi to the Dark Side

Featuring: Moazzam Begg, William Brand, Jack Cloonan, Damien Corsetti

Directed by: Alex Gibney

Produced by: Susannah Shipman, Alex Gibney, Eva Orner

Written by: Alex Gibney

Distributor: ThinkFilm


As seen at the 2007 San Diego Film Festival:

     Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side is yet another left-wing documentary that stretches the truth to vocalize accusatory conspiracy-theories regarding the Bush Administration. The film is slightly more insightful than other pictures that have tried to tackle the same subject-matter, but is even more dangerous than its counterparts because of its slick assembly. Gibney, like a discreet and more-talented version of Michael Moore, has cherry-picked numerous facts and strung them together to create false political-revelations for uninformed viewers. “I’m so glad that someone is making this type of movie to keep me up to date with the injustices that are taking place in the world!” a young woman enthusiastically proclaimed while walking out of the screening that I attended of the film. If only she was smart enough to realize that Taxi to the Dark Side was instilling anti-Bush views in her mind by utilizing numerous half-truths and a lot of sticky editing-glue.

     The film deals with the U.S. Military’s allegedly inhumane torture of hundreds of Islamic Prisoners. Gibney specifically zeroes in on the case of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi-cab driver who was turned over as a terrorist to the personnel at Bagram Air Force Base. At Bagram, Dilawar was supposedly tortured to death by being shackled to the ceiling of his prison-cell using handcuffs, a practice that Gibney’s interviewees (mainly former interrogators) say is all too common in Iraq. The film uses this story as a means of transitioning into explorations of similar suspected offenses taking place at Abu Ghraib (the famous Iraqi POW-camp that was led by the same woman as the one at Bagram), Guantanamo Bay, and several other locations.

     Throughout the duration of Taxi to the Dark Side, Gibney’s subjects make several points about mistakes made within the American Military on the Bush Administration’s watch, many of which are worthy of consideration. Certain concerns vocalized in the film about the military’s use of torture are legitimate, particularly those regarding the way the practice has been recently implemented. In the third act of Taxi to the Dark Side, we learn that Dilawar’s case was one of many in which Islamist militant-forces turned over an innocent man to American Authorities as a suspected-terrorist because of the U.S.’ policy to reward Afghan Warlords for (often false) Intelligence. To many viewers, this will come as a highly shocking revelation. Another interesting truth raised by Gibney’s subjects is the fact that the majority of American interrogators have little-to-no experience in the field, and their lack of qualifications provides them poor chances of “breaking” suspected terrorists.

     Despite providing viewers some worthy food-for-thought, Taxi to the Dark Side suffers from two central problems, both of which are typical of standard-issue leftist “documentaries.” As touched on before, one of the film’s major faults is that it tries to chalk all of the injustices discussed up to President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Gibney both crisply and troublingly traces the Dilawar-case back to what he views as the Bush Administration’s defiance of the Geneva Convention and suspension of habeus corpus. When this seems like too much of a stretch, he instantly cites the same corruption of the C.I.A., never mentioning the fact that this organization has been plagued by far less problems under Bush’s Presidency than it was under those of Clinton, Bush’s father, Reagan, and Carter. Gibney rarely considers the possibility that internal corruption pertaining to higher-ups in the Military may be entirely to blame for wrongly-conducted torture. This is perhaps for the better, given it ensures that he never smears American Soldiers, who have recently been unfairly provided conflicting ideas about torture by their superiors.

     The other prominent (if slightly more theoretical) problem with the film is that it never offers a strong argument proving that the U.S. government’s use of mandated-torture is wrong. While somewhat sympathetic to Gibney’s claim that the country has violated the Geneva Convention by torturing suspected terrorists in the hopes of intercepting Intelligence, I sided more with the arguments vocalized in the documentary by Bush Administration attorney John Yoo. Yoo rationally justifies the moderate torture that the United States government did condone (he unfortunately never addresses that which it did not) as a means of confronting a Radical Islamist Enemy. The only comment that Gibney makes through his interviewees regarding this issue is that he feels that suspected-terrorists are more likely to confess to/talk about crimes if provided a luxury (such as a paid-for education for their children) rather than tortured, a notion that I frankly do not buy. Gibney seems all too sympathetic with the Enemy, which may prove dangerous because, at the same time, he comes across as a credible political observer. I would hate for Taxi to the Dark Side to cause unknowing viewers to develop hostilities toward a mostly-effective United States Foreign Policy. Still, I have a moderate respect for the movie’s ability to raise the aforementioned select, valid points regarding the use of torture in the War on Terror.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 10.4.2007

Screened on: 9.29.2007 at the Pacific Gaslamp 15 in San Diego, CA.


Taxi to the Dark Side is rated R and runs 106 minutes.

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