The docudrama The Road to Guantanamo does double duty on the hearts and minds of viewers. It puts a face on the torture of prisoners being done in America’s name, and thus touches our hearts more viscerally than the brute facts in text might. But more exceptionally, its reenactments of torture do the impossible to our Hollywoodized eyes: they restore terror to onscreen violence, and thus in a very literal sense change our minds.
Road recounts the ordeal of the Tipton Three — young British Muslim pals who went to Pakistan to plan a wedding in fall 2001 only to find themselves in the early chapters of our twisted post-9/11 history: swept up by Northern Alliance forces and then imprisoned by American and British military, first in Afghanistan then at Guantanamo. Alternating reenactments (by actors) and monologues (by the young men themselves), it’s a bewildering saga. The recurring presence of the oddly understated victims makes it all the more painful.
“Life” for these three — and the “drama” — attenuates into a lunatic free-fall of seemingly interminable imprisonment and constantly threatened death. “The world’s not a nice place,” reports one of the Three as his lesson learned. Jesus H.
Hard to watch, and yet work remains to be done: affable innocents is one thing, but try turning a population weaned on action-movie beatdowns of bad guys against all torture, period.