Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)

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Released 16-Sep-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 106:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alex Gibney
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Alex Gibney
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Ivor Guest


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    On 1 December 2002 Afghani taxi-driver Diliwar was arrested and brought in for questioning by the occupying US forces. He was taken to Bagram prison for interrogation on 4 December 2002. Five days later he was dead, one of over 100 deaths in costody.

His death might have been swept under the carpet were it not for the efforts of some intrepid journalists. Not only did their investigations reveal that Diliwar was nothing more than a simple taxi-driver in the wrong place at the wrong time but also, more chillingly, that the pathologist had marked his death certificate as a homicide.

During his 5 day interrogation Diliwar had been chained to the ceiling of the prison, exposed to sleep deprivation, threatened and harrassed. He was systematically hurt with non-lethal knee strikes and punches until his legs became "pulpified". Had he survived the beatings he would have needed amputation of both legs.

Taxi to the Dark Side is an Oscar winning documentary by Alex Gibney and produced by Australian Eva Orner. Gibney previously made the excoriating documentary about corporate America Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Whether taking on the dark heart of corporate USA or military excesses Gibney plays a straight bat. He lets the witnesses tell their stories including the soldiers charged over Diliwar's death.

The film consists of a combination of interviews and excerpts from TV and press gallery interviews given by the top of the chain of command - Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush. Whilst the focus of the movie is on the death of Diliwar its examination is far more wide ranging. Was this, like the horrors of Abu Ghraib, a result of a few bad apples or was it an example of Government sanctioned torture. The result, not suprisingly, is the latter. Gibney answers the hard question of "what happened to the land of the free?" with a detailed account of the passage of America from a nation observant of International law principles to one that uses the same techniques as those it seeks to look down upon.

It all began with 9/11. The War on Terror was launched with an acknowledgement from Rumsfeld that the new war was a mean, nasty business. Fighting the terrorists who were all around required the use of "any means" at the disposal of the US.

Using advisors and legislation to obfuscate the Rule of Law the tenets of the Geneva Convention suddenly didn't matter very much, particularly at Guantanamo Bay which was outside US soil. As the pressure to find terrorists increased so did the methods used to extract information. The old days and the old ways were gone and interrogators used psychological torture to break down the detainees. Words that had no meaning until this war - like extraordinary rendition, redaction and PUCS suddenly stand for the worst excesses of human rights. The irony, according to some witnesses, is that it has long been acknowledged that information obtained under torture is rarely reliable.

At the time of making this documentary there were 83,000 people in detention who had not been formally charged let alone brought to justice. Crucially, those people were not captured, weapon in hand, on the battlefield but were often arrested by local militia in return for a reward.

Gibney is no bleeding heart just seeking to pay out on his own country. His father, who appears at the end of the film was an interrogator during World War 2. He is shocked and horrified at what his own country has done in the name of freedom. Taxi to the Dark Side is the sort of documentary which will draw tears of rage from the hardest heart. It is painstakingly researched and rarely didactic. A must see.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Taxi to the Dark Side has been transferred to DVD at a 1.85:1 ratio consistent with its cinematic aspect ratio.

It is 16x9 enhanced.

The film comprises a variety of news and other footage the quality of which varies according to the source. The new interview footage is clean, clear and good looking. The flesh tones are accurate. Gibney films the interviews with the soldiers in a dark environment and the blacks are suitably inky.

There are no technical problems with the DVD apart from a little aliasing here and there and slight noise in some of the video segments.

Otherwise it is attractive as a documentary of this type can look.

There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
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Audio

    Taxi to the Dark Side has a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack running at 224 Kb/s.

Nothing is lost by the absence of a surround track. The music was ambient and provided a brooding backdrop to the horror unfolding on-screen.

All the interviewees can be heard clearly. In some scenes where the source material has compromised sound the filmmaker has subtitled the hard-to-hear stuff.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Taxi to the Dark Side is available in Region 1 with a number of extras including out-takes and an extended interview with Gibney's father. The very devoted should pick up that edition.

Summary

    Taxi to the Dark Side is a well-made, very important documentary. In spite of the Oscar it has been controversial with message boards on fire with the ridiculous suggestion that Gibney is Anti-American.

The DVD transfer is fine and the lack of extras is disappointing but not crucial. A must buy.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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