Michael Winterbottom's docu-drama recounts the story of the 'Tipton Three' - young British muslims who were captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay. The film opens with their original journey from the UK to Pakistan for a wedding, on into the increasingly unstable Afghanistan, and eventually their capture and transfer to Cuba.
If anyone was in any doubt about the brutality of the regime at Guantanamo, then the film certainly provides some horrible, graphical food for thought. What struck me the most was not the way the detainees were treated, shocking as that was, but the almost panicked way in which they were handled. The film doesn't just portray a cold, calculatingly abusive regime, but a regime so freaked out that its response is utterly disproportionate to the situation.
My overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude to Michael Winterbottom for making the film, as anything that causes us to stop and think about the issue is immensely important. However, I also went away feeling like an opportunity had been missed to create a film of even greater impact.
The style of the film is recognisable from Winterbottom's film about two Afghans entering the UK illegally, "In This World". Neither film explicitly passes judgement on the situation or the characters. In This World did a great job of just telling a story, and leaving the viewer to make up their own mind. The Road to Guantanamo is less successful in that regard. It lacks the rigour of a documentary, simply telling the story from one perspective. Of course this is a story that needs to be told, and I imagine that was the director's aim. For sure the American side gets plenty enough airtime, so anything to redress the balance is worthwhile, and we shouldn't begrudge that.
However, with a topic that is so politically charged, I can't help feeling that a little more objectivity would have helped bring the message home. As a viewer I had numerous questions I wanted to ask of the main characters, the answers to which would have helped me engage with their story at a personal level. It's a shame the filmmakers didn't anticipate this. The interview footage with the real Tipton Three felt somewhat hollow. For the most part I found it easier to engage emotionally with the actors playing them. Perhaps this is inevitable given what they've been through; I'm sure I'd seem cut off too.
What do you think of The Road to Guantanamo? Write Your Own Review...