No End in Sight (2007)
Directed by: Charles Ferguson
Premise: A documentary about the mismanagement of the first four years of the Iraq War from the taking of Baghdad to the height of the insurgency.
What Works: No End in Sight is an impressive piece of documentary journalism. Unlike a lot of films about the Iraq War or the presidency of George W. Bush, this one is far less polemical and its tone is very even. This is not a picture that seeks to damn the United States or the Bush Administration outright but instead stays focused on the story that it is telling, recounting the administrative follies of the war and holding those responsible for those mistakes accountable for their actions. The film handles the expositional information of its narrative very well and moves along briskly, introducing a lot of figures and ideas but organizing them in such a way as to make a messy situation understandable. No End in Sight is also notable for its use of footage of life on the ground in Iraq. The documentary includes video recordings of combat and anti-American demonstrations, but the film goes further than a lot of the stock footage that appears on mainstream news sources or other documentaries and gives a sense of the danger and even restores a sense of newness to the conflict. This is important because it gives the war a reality and an immediacy that it risks loosing as the war goes on and becomes a part of the status quo.
What Doesn’t: No End in Sight was made before the troop surge in 2007 and so the film’s appraisal of the state of Iraq is dated. The lessons that it shares about nation building and international intervention are still valuable and No End in Sight remains an important documentary as a time capsule of the early years of the war, but as time goes on it may be best viewed as part of a pantheon of documentaries on the subject.
DVD extras: Featurettes, extended interviews, and a No End in Sight book promo.
Bottom Line: No End in Sight is worth seeing even now, after the troop surge has brought some level of stability to Iraq. The film is a great piece of documentary filmmaking, an important case study of how military intervention can be mismanaged, and an effective summary of a specific period in the history of America and Iraq.
Episode: #281 (March 21, 2010)