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Film Clips

No End in Sight, The 11th Hour, 3:10 to Yuma, others

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NO END IN SIGHT "This is absolute Fantasyland. These people -- I don't know what they were smoking, but it must have been very good." So says author and talking head James Bamford about the members of the Bush Administration and their actions regarding the Iraq War in this absorbing documentary that dissects the mind-numbing incompetence that has defined this White House since Sept. 11, 2001. At this point in time, all Americans except for the most brainwashed of FOX News fanatics have accepted the irrefutable fact that this war was a bad idea from the get-go, and No End In Sight offers an excellent analysis of the logistics behind this disaster-in-the-making, insuring that no viewer gets left behind as it carefully details the timeline between 9/11 and now. But only Republicans to the right of, say, Heinrich Himmler can find fault with what can't be dismissed as simply a liberal tirade: Rather than relying on the usual leftist talking heads like Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky, writer-director-producer Charles Ferguson gathers interviews with key personnel from within the Iraq campaign, including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and General Jay Garner, and allows them to explain how myopic leaders -- among them Donald Rumsfeld (who in his press briefings would come across as a court jester were the consequences of his actions not so dire), Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and George W. Bush (the latter coming across, not surprisingly, as an imbecile who was kept out of the loop on most key directives by his own underlings) -- made countless decisions that guaranteed this war would be lost before it even started. Iraqi citizens have their say (it's heartbreaking to see a few lament the destruction of Baghdad's museum and library, both of which were historical landmarks containing artifacts from over 1,000 years ago), as do American soldiers and even one pro-war official (predictably, all the rest refused to be interviewed for this film). It isn't often that a movie comes along that should be mandatory viewing, but here's one that should absolutely be integrated into every U.S. high school curriculum.  ***1/2

Current Releases

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM The third time's the charm with The Bourne Ultimatum, the best in the series of films based on the Robert Ludlum novels. Admittedly, I wasn't as great a fan as everyone else when it came to the first two entrie, 2002's The Bourne Identity and 2004's The Bourne Supremacy. While I appreciated the effort to bring the spy flick back to its gritty and less gadget-oriented roots (an approach better accomplished by last year's James Bond reinvention, Casino Royale), both Identity (directed by Doug Liman) and Supremacy (helmed by Paul Greengrass) felt as if they were constantly getting stuck in the same grooves, with repetitive action sequences, a squandering of great talent in throwaway roles, and a tight-lipped protagonist so one-note that viewer empathy was next to impossible. These problems haven't all been rectified in Ultimatum, but they don't nag as consistently as before. Matt Damon, suitably taciturn even though he's still too young for the role, again stars as Jason Bourne, the former CIA assassin whose continuing bout of amnesia regarding his past perpetually keeps him searching for the truth, even as his agency handlers seek to have him terminated. Greengrass, returning to the series after taking time off to earn a Best Director Oscar nomination for United 93, tops himself with action set pieces that prove to be more exciting than those on display in his Supremacy (or Liman's Identity). One of the lengthy chase scenes is especially impressive, and makes one wonder if Damon elected to forego a straight salary in order to be paid by the kilometer. ***

THE 11TH HOUR In exactly which universe could Al Gore possibly emerge as a more charismatic screen presence than Leonardo DiCaprio? In our own, it seems. DiCaprio has long proven himself to be a sincere environmentalist (he was a logical choice to share the stage with Gore at this year's Academy Awards ceremony), yet good intentions don't always make for good movies. Case in point: The 11th Hour, in which DiCaprio (who serves as producer and narrator) looks at the fragile condition of this planet and makes some suggestions on how to improve our quality of life before it's too late. Unlike the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, in which Gore shocked everyone by revealing himself as an appealing teacher while passing along a wealth of knowledge in a colorful and easy-to-digest manner, this dry documentary relies on a monotonous DiCaprio and 55 talking heads (yes, 55; I counted the names in the end credits) to relay soundbites of scientific data, much of which many of us already knew (if this film was a book, it'd be called Environmentalism for Dummies). This is clearly a case of too many cooks spoiling the organic broth: Whereas, for example, An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed the Electric Car? focused on specific issues and explored them in depth, this dull film is too scattershot to make much of an impression. As a PSA, this is an extremely important work, but as a motion picture, it's ripe for recycling. **

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