Taxi To The Dark Side

Taxi To The Dark Side

DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Taxi To The Dark Side

One of the (many) great things about Alex Gibney's documentary is the way that it compresses a vast array of complicated materials down to a compellingly economic form – but those viewers whose curiosity has been merely tickled rather than fully sated can delve deeper into the issues, thanks to the accompanying extras on Revolver Entertainment's excellent DVD package, accessed through menus that loop some of George W Bush's more chilling soundbites.

Taxi To The Dark Side already features an occasional voice-over from Gibney, but the optional full audio commentary available here amplifies many aspects of the story, as well as detailing Gibney's techniques as a filmmaker. It was decided, for example, that all interviewees, whether defenders, practitioners or victims of torture, should be filmed against the same flat, cell-like background, both "to unify them" and to suggest that they are all in a way imprisoned within the same inhuman system. Full tribute is paid to Tim Golden and Carlotta Gall, whose journalism was the inspiration for the film, while Gibney laments the fact that neither Caroline Wood (the commanding officer in charge of the interrogation unit at Bagram Air Base and later Abu Ghraib) nor any of the Guantanamo detainees were made available for interview.

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Over the final credits of Taxi To The Dark Side, we see brief snatches of an interview that Gibney conducted with his father Frank shortly before his death. The full 16-minute interview is included as an extra, in which Frank contrasts his own experiences doing "good missionary work" as a Navy interrogator of Japanese PoWs during WWII (many of whom remained his good friends for decades thereafter) with the current methodology of abuse and torture, and expresses deep disgust with the conduct of the Bush administration. It is a dying man's bitter indictment against the new direction taken by a nation whose values he had himself once served well.

The five outtakes (four introduced by Gibney) are all fascinating expansions of the film's argument, including former president Jimmy Carter declaring the torture of prisoners to be a "gross violation of basic American values", and equating the demolition of habeas corpus to "abuses of basic human rights." Former interrogator Tony Lagouranis is also shown offering an articulate account of the environment in which detainees would continue to be interrogated long after it had become clear that they were innocent.

The disc also offers in full Gibney's appearances as an interviewee on PBS Now, Link TV and Democracy Now, all recorded in 2008 as promotion for the film. In the last of these, Gibney discusses (and strongly criticises) the decision taken by the Discovery Channel ("the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil channel") not to air the film on the grounds that it was too "controversial" (Discovery has since sold the television rights to HBO).

Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2008
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An unflinching look at the Bush administration's policy on torture.
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Product Code: REVD2110

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85:1

Sound: Dolby Stereo 2.0, Dolby Digital Surround 5.1

Extras: Full audio commentary, the complete interview with Frank Gibney, five outtakes, three media appearances by Alex Gibney, trailer

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