Friday, May 12, 2006

The Long & Winding...

The Road to Guantánamo
(Michael Winterbottom, Mat Whitecross, UK, 95 mins.)


While watching The Road to Guantánamo, it occurred to me that important films are rarely fun, while fun films are rarely important. United 93 is an important film. Though exciting--in the action-adventure sense of the word--it isn't much fun. Had Paul Greengrass imbued it with even a shred of fun, he'd have faced major derision, so it's understandable that he would resist the impulse. The result is a film that feels a bit like eating your "veg," to quote Wallace & Gromit. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir prefers the phrase "spinach cinema."

All of this is to say that The Road to Guantánamo is even more relentless than Midnight Express (1978), but without those patented Parker-esque flights of fancy to lighten the load. No, it's just torture, torture, torture. Granted, that's probably exactly what it was like for these young British Muslims, shipped to Cuba's Guantánamo Bay, while en route to a wedding in Pakistan.

Well, as a filmgoer, I found it a slog. Where's John Hurt when you need him? Or Steve Coogan, star of Winterbottom's gleefully irreverent 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy? Seriously, Winterbottom, who trod similar ground with the superior In This World (2002), and Whitecross, his former AD, have done an admirable job at blending real-life interviews with re-creations in tracing the Kafka-esque journey travelled by this intrepid trio, but not until the cathartic final frame could I honestly say I enjoyed the film or found it the least bit "fun." I realize that's a lot to ask and it's not that I don't like spinach--it's just that I prefer it with a little sauce.
Egyptian: 6/8 at 7:15pm and Pacific Place: 6/11 at 1:15pm.

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