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Road to Guantanamo, The

Sony Pictures // R // October 24, 2006
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Svet Atanasov | posted October 25, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

Four Muslims from Tipton, England fly off to Pakistan to attend a wedding. Mesmerized by the old country they embark on a questionable journey to neighboring Afghanistan where the Taliban are fighting the coalition forces. One of them dies. As bombs begin to fall the remaining three are detained and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay where US and British intelligence officials are interrogating what they believe to be active Al-Qaeda members.

On the back cover of the DVD for The Road to Guantanamo (2006), British director Michael Winterbottom's latest film, a tiny quote announces that this is "a film every American voter should see". The author of the quote is no other than the capable of rising temperatures to the point of boiling American filmmaker Michael Moore. Let's see how believable this quote is…

First of all I find it incredibly difficult to write about this film without drawing parallels with what currently takes place in our country. The ongoing confrontation between politicians from different sides of the political spectrum arguing whether or not the US is making any progress in the war on terror is likely to have formed an opinion in you. Like you I happen to have one as well! Here's what the biased "politician" in me saw in The Road to Guantanamo:

The latent conservative in me saw a strange message delivered by the ever so critical of America Michael Winterbottom. Three lads from England embark on a journey to Afghanistan to "help" someone or something amidst a sea of falling bombs. Who, what, or whom were they supposed to help and with what I am unsure! As it appears so was Mr. Winterbottom! I saw his film twice now and still have no idea why the three lads from Tipton entered Afghanistan. Judging by their actions (I assume most of them well-documented and based on proven facts) neither were they. The fact that the boys are seen as heroes for entering a country in a state of war baffles me!!

The latent liberal in me is outraged!! Disgraceful, inhumane, and disturbing is what comes to mind when one watches how the three Brits were treated at Guantanamo Bay!! If what Michael Winterbottom's film claims is true then most certainly someone is to be blamed for it. And the fact that no one has admitted "fault" does not sit well with me!!

The latent independent in me likes to ask questions!! He also likes to challenge what the other two "politicians" often take for granted: cause, action, and reaction is what he is interested in. And having seen The Road to Guantanamo twice now there are plenty of questions that I have for which this film has no answers.

I want to know exactly why the three British nationals entered Afghanistan. The flaky explanation they had in the opening scenes of this film is nothing more than a laughable pretext for justifying what even a kid would question.

I want to know why the fact that the British nationals had criminal records (no matter how "minor") was downplayed during the course of this film.

I want to know why there wasn't a detailed description of the events surrounding the release of the British nationals. Michael Winterbottom appears to have gained some pretty revealing information based on which he filmed some very graphic scenes from Guantanamo Bay. If I am to believe that what was shown on the screen really took place then I also want to be shown how and what led to the release of the prisoners. Seems logical to me!!

Furthermore, if all I saw did indeed happen then I want to know who is personally responsible for the tortures at Guantanamo Bay? Are we fighting terror or creating it? If what Michael Winterbottom is intentionally propagandizing are blatant lies I want to know what the US government has to say to counter his lies? And I want to know why is one men's distorted vision on reality taken for granted?! After all The Road to Guantanamo documents someone else's story, not Winterbottom's, and no matter how "authentic" the recollections upon which this film is based anyone has the right to question the accusations of a man who hasn't been directly involved in this tragedy.

While for the most part superbly executed The Road to Guantanamo did not sit well with me. Not because I am not willing to accept what its creator claims. In fact, I am every bit inclined to believe that something did go wrong with those who ended up being treated as criminals yet no criminal charges were filed against them. But, I am not ready to believe that American forces simply shipped off a group of long-bearded Muslims to Cuba attempting to prove they were Al-Qaeda supporters without a reason. As far as I am concerned in The Road to Guantanamo Michael Winterbottom walks the shallow waters of anti-American bashing and it is pretty naïve to believe that what he tells us is the truth. It is also quite naïve not to believe that this film gets more than a few notes right!!

How Does the DVD Look?

Quite good indeed!! Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the image quality is very strong: fine degree of contrast (the film does offer an intentional documentary look at times), excellent progressive image, lack of any excessive edge-enhancement, and convincing color gradation. Furthermore, the master print must have been in excellent condition as well as what the DVD reveals is a print free of any damage/dirt. Overall this is yet another very solid effort from the producers at SONY.

How Does the DVD Sound?

Presented with its original English language track (as well as bits of Arabic, Urdu, and other dialects) and a solid 5.1 mix the audio quality matches every bit the video quality described above. Dialog is easy to follow, the action loud without any distortions, and I could not detect any dropouts or hissing(s). This is a solid job that should provide a good workout for your home system.


Aside from a few trailers for other SONY releases there is nothing else to be found on this disc.

Final Words:

I will let you be the judge! There is plenty here that many would want to debate and I am certain there is a good reason(s) for it. Yet, the anti-American breeze in this film does not sit well with me!!

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