friday random ten, 2007 edition
the wire: the last season begins

oscar run ii: no end in sight (charles ferguson, 2007)

Another documentary that might get an Oscar nomination, No End in Sight has already won several critics' awards for the best documentary of the year, and received a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. New filmmaker Charles Ferguson, who directed, wrote, and produced the film, did not approach his topic with his point already established in his mind. Well, that's not true ... as the title suggests, Ferguson assumes things have gone wrong in Iraq, and he sets out to figure out just what those things are. But his approach is fairly evenhanded. Ferguson himself shared some of the goals of the war's proponents early on, and he has managed to get a variety of insiders to talk to his camera, most of whom were part of the team either creating the plan or carrying it out: the first person in charge of reconstruction, a Colonel who worked with organizations on the ground in Iraq, a Marine who spent time there. Even Richard Armitage, who served under Colin Powell in the State Department and was the person who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, offers his take, and a very careful take it is ... Armitage is not one to criticize his superiors in public. But a common thread emerges from all of these witnesses, Armitage included. Whatever your thoughts on the morality or political efficacy of the war, we might have pulled it off. But the people in charge were arrogant pricks who refused to listen to expert advice because they knew what they wanted to do, and they did it.

Bush is attacked primarily as the hands-off President who let things happen on his watch. The ones who construct the failed scenario (Cheney, Rumsfeld, and later Bremer, to mention three of a very small number) apparently didn't do a single thing right. So whatever "success" might have been possible was never going to happen, thanks to the colossal incompetence of the men (and Condi Rice) in charge.

The film's own success comes by presenting material you think you know from a slightly different angle, which allows you to see things afresh. This is not an anti-war film, or perhaps even an anti-Iraq War film. It is a film that unsparingly documents the endless series of boneheaded decisions that have left Iraq in a state of chaos. It is not a pretty picture, or a pretty film.


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