Impossible to fault Winterbottom and Whitecross’s motives in questioning the thinking behind and disciplinary regime of the US anti-terror camp – unless you’re a diehard Bush-baby (even then you may have qualms about the Administration’s attitude to international law). But a few flaws undermine the moral, political and dramatic force of the filmmakers’ ‘argument’ as they trace the trajectory of the ‘Tipton Three’ from the Midlands, via Pakistan and Afghanistan, to isolation, torture and misery in the camp. The film is predicated on a wholly unquestioning acceptance of the men’s own account of why they were in Afghanistan and what befell them. The linear structure – which, for all the mix of straight-to-camera reminiscence, reconstruction and newsreel, amounts to an ‘and then, and then, and then…’ narrative – precludes illuminating digression and eventually makes for a degree of dramatic tedium. Finally, the docudrama scenes feel no more authentic than those in any stylish current affairs exposé. Still, the Three’s determination to move on is very affecting.
Friday March 10 2006
Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross