An acquaintance working at a conservative daily newspaper used to tell me that when President Bill Clinton was in office, they had a corporate mandate to choose the worst possible photos whenever running a story about him. The point was to make Clinton look like a fool. Filmmaker Charles Ferguson must have the same policy concerning President George W. Bush, the chief commander responsible for the ongoing Iraq War. His mouth hangs open in just about every image in the film. Bush looks the fool in “No End in Sight,” which I find very clumsy. (Disclaimer: I have voted Democrat across the ticket in every election).
Ferguson likes to present “No End in Sight” as a comprehensive analysis of the War in Iraq but these easy sight gags deflate the film’s credibility. Granted, the majority of people today agree that casualties are too high and will continue to rise. More people believe that Bush’s explanation for invading Iraq was misinformed at best and deceitful at worst. You don’t have to portray President Bush a buffoon in order to build the case that invading Iraq War in 2003 was a terrible mistake. The “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging across an aircraft carrier in May 2003 is the bold visual centerpiece for a film that resembles a Hollywood action movie more than a news documentary. Ferguson and cameraman Antonio Rossi capture striking images as Baghdad dissolves into chaos via the looting of its museums and libraries, fiery explosions along its highways and infrastructure breakdown.
Through split-screen images courtesy of editors Chad Beck and Cindy Lee and fast-moving camerawork, “No End in Sight” has visual pop to stare. The surprising flaw is that nothing about the film feels fresh or particularly insightful. Government officials like Dick Armitage and others who tried to caution the Neo-Cons about rushing into war, receive the entire spotlight. Rumsfeld and other members of President Bush’s team refused to be interviewed by Ferguson. In fact, arguments from the Neo-Cons are slight to the point of non-existence. For Ferguson, a political science scholar at U.C. Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the film’s lack of new content and analysis are the most disappointing surprises.
One might say that because of the Democratic Party gains in the recent elections that the timing is right for an anti-Iraq film like “No End in Sight.” But I think the opposite is true. “No End in Sight” is redundant; a letdown for those craving answers. But, now that Ferguson realizes his skill with cameras, lenses and setting up shots, he can once again focus on the things he practices daily in college classrooms: coherent, well-supported arguments.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Steve Ramos is an award-winning film writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. When not on assignment, he maintains the blog Flyover Online.
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