Movie review: Boys of Abu Ghraib
March 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM
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Boys of Abu Ghraib
Directed by:  Luke Moran
Starring:  Luke Moran (Jack Farmer), Sean Astin (Sergeant Tanner), Omid Abtahi (Ghazi), Sara Paxton (Peyton), John Heard (Sam Farmer)
Music: Dan Marocco
Language: English
Rating: 4.5/5

Let me begin with a word of caution. The Boys of Abu Ghraib is not a film for the faint-hearted. For, it may be tough to watch the 100-minute drama that depicts physical and mental torture of detainees inside an infamous prison.

But you should watch it if you wish not to forget the excesses committed by the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Abu Ghraib prison. For the record, the human rights violations that included physical abuses, rape, sodomy and murder had caught the world's attention after Amnesty International published the report in 2003 and the film is inspired by the chain of shameful events.

The story revolves around Jack Farmer, a young American who opts for an army stint in Iraq. The youngster gets a posting in Abu Ghraib. However, he and his colleagues soon realise that they have become over-trained and under-utilised yard hands. Jack gets bored and he opts for guard duty, a job that demands tough mental approach, inside the prison. However, no one gives him a formal training, except for a few instructions from Sergeant Tanner, his superior, on how to treat the detainees. "Our job is to soften up prisoners for interrogators by making them as miserable as possible without leaving visible evidence of ill-treatment. The weapons are deprivation, humiliation and isolation," Tanner instructs Jack.

Being a person who values relationships, Jack gets easily shocked by the maltreatment of prisoners. Later, he develops friendship with Ghazi, one of the detainees and a graduate from Kings College in London. The friendship grows thicker and Jack gets traumatised when Ghazi is hauled up for interrogation. The extension of the mission beyond six months further adds up to his frustration. In a spur of moment, he gives vent to his anger on Ghazi which continues to haunt him even after he returns home.

The film is not just about the life of prisoners. It tried to capture the sense of deprivation among young soldiers who opted for Army duty after the gruesome September 11 attacks on the United States. The protagonist, Jack, and his companions were posted in Abu Ghraib for a period of six months. But the decision to extend their duty even as they were getting ready to leave for home didn't go down well with them. But all they could do was to accept their plight and resume their duties. At times, viewers may feel the movie as a Luke Moran show as he dons the lead actor role besides penning the story, script and directing the movie. Even actors like Sean Astin got a few minutes on the screen as Jack's superior officer.

The captivating movie, indeed, left a sense of poignancy among the viewers who could at least witness the human rights abuses right in front of their eyes, a year after the movie was released in other parts of the world.

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