Whether the United States' invasion of Iraq was justified is the topic of much debate, of course, but one thing is indisputable: Once Baghdad fell, it was imperative that Saddam Hussein be captured. Even if America was wrong to topple his dictatorship, we couldn't very well leave the job half-done once we started it.
So when Saddam was arrested in a spiderhole in December 2003, it was a victory most of the world could celebrate. But how did it happen? "Ace in the Hole" is a 50-minute documentary that summarizes the events leading up to Saddam's capture.
Produced by Discovery's Military Channel, "Ace in the Hole" relies mostly on interviews with the military personnel involved in the capture, primarily men in the Army's 4th Infantry Division. Narrator Eric Meyers fills in the blanks, and there are plenty of clips from footage shot on location during the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003.
The strategy at first was to capture the men in Saddam's inner circle -- the faces on that famous deck of playing cards, you'll recall -- and learn Saddam's whereabouts from them. Alas, none of them seemed to know. (And this is the U.S. military we're talking about here. I suspect if any of these guys knew anything, they'd have talked before our guys were through "interrogating" them.) Saddam's support structure was built so that only a few key players knew where he was at any given time -- smart, considering how many of his cronies were captured by the U.S.
Once we'd questioned all the candidates who were likely to know where Saddam was hiding, it took a new angle and a little bit of luck to actually find him. "Ace in the Hole" lays it out neatly and without clutter, making for a concise, easy-to-follow documentary.
The political dimensions are not explored; the possibility that we shouldn't have invaded Iraq in the first place is never mentioned; and the fact that Saddam's arrest did not put an end to the insurgency (as had been hoped) is mentioned only briefly. It's the Military Channel, after all. You gotta know your audience.
(Note: This documentary features an interview with a man named Patrick Cockburn. Cockburn!)
Video: Letterbox (1.78:1). Some of the on-location footage was shot haphazardly, of course, but the after-the-fact interviews were done digitally and are crisp and clear.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
Extras: The only real extra is a good one, a Discovery Channel special called "Hunting Saddam: Wanted Dead or Alive." It aired in the fall of 2003 -- after the death of Saddam's sons, but before Saddam himself was captured. The 53-minute program offers more insight on the 2003 search for Saddam and gives background on America's long, tortuous history with the Iraqi leader. Plus, it interviews a guy named Andrew Cockburn! (Related to Patrick? We are not told.)
There's also a trailer for Discovery Channel's "Full Throttle," one of its many, many shows about motorcycles.
For military buffs, particularly those who support the invasion and occupation of Iraq, this is a useful DVD to have. The bonus feature gives good background, and the main feature sums up in easy terms one of America's clear victories in the war.