REVIEW: The Road to Guantanamo
Your average teen road-trip movie subjects its hapless and trusting protagonists to a series of humiliations before dumping them out on the other side, bedraggled and weary. Eclectic auteur Michael Winterbottom’s new film, half documentary and half recreation, is a bizarro version of one of those movies. The Road to Guantanamo‘s teenage subjects are as wide-eyed as a Jason Biggs character, but the punishment they receive for their naïveté goes far beyond the humiliation of getting caught with your dick in a pie. In Fall 2001, as the United States bombed the Taliban out of Afghanistan, British kids Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul and Ruhul Ahmed wandered into the besieged country from a vacation in Pakistan, with the vague goal of offering humanitarian aid. A few wrong turns later. they were captured by the Northern Alliance, flown to Guantanamo and imprisoned for more than two years without trial.
It’s the holiday from hell. That phrase may sound glib, but it’s Winterbottom’s, not mine. And as a reference point, it works in the movie’s favor, normalizing our perceptions of the victims as they chat with each other in Pakistan, then thrusting them into a surreal nightmare. Though Bush and Rumsfeld only appear in brief news clips, the film’s a firm rebuke to the rigid neo-con dichotomy of "them" and "us": them’s us. Winterbottom has made a sharp political movie with almost no explicit politics. He simply puts us in the shoes of his characters and then explodes their world. — Peter Smith
DATE DVD: The Princess Bride: Buttercup and Dread Pirate Editions
Sometimes, you just need an excuse to watch a favorite film for the fourteenth time — something other than "Well, TNT’s showing The Breakfast Club again with seventy-five commercial interruptions and no curse words." And that won’t work on a date anyway. But these will: The Princess Bride: Buttercup Edition and The Princess Bride: Dread Pirate Edition. The sets are packaged with comic documentaries about Robin Wright’s lovely Buttercup and Cary Elwes’ courageous Westley, but you won’t watch them. It’s the movie itself that counts: you and your date saw it as kids and can still quote half of it without thinking, from Billy Crystal’s "Have fun stormin’ the castle!" to Mandy Patinkin’s "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." But the romance is what makes this a great movie. Alongside all those slapstick bits and wisecracks, it’s packed with over-the-top romantic lines that only swashbuckling silliness like this can deliver. My favorite is probably the moment Wright tells Elwes, "We’ll never survive," and he says, "Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has." And he’s right, of course. Wesley seemingly dies and then returns to Buttercup, demanding to know why she didn’t wait for him. "Well, because you were dead," she deadpans. "Death cannot stop true love," Wesley purrs. "It can only delay it for a while." — Logan Hill