War movies usually fall into two camps: pro-war propaganda pieces and cynical anti-war projects. Both takes offer viable opinions of the turmoil of warfare, but it appears at times to be difficult to find the right tone that makes a film feel authentic. At this point there have been hundreds of movies covering multiple wars and there have been many classics within the genre. The events in Prisoner Of War (known as Boys Of Abu Ghraib in the US) take place in Iraq in 2003 and it offers a fictitious take on the torture and degradation of prisoners which took place in the prison following the fall of Sadam Hussein’s regime. Prisoner Of War falls somewhere in the middle. It’s a pro-American war film that shows some of the darkest moments in America’s military history.
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Writer/director/star Luke Moran plays Jack Farmer, an all-American solider stationed at the prison in 2003. Farmer becomes bored with the monotony of life at the prison, which is far less exciting than he was led to believe. Farmer takes a voluntary position as a prison guard, keeping an eye on the ‘worst of the worst’ within the prison. He meets Sgt. Tanner (Sean Austin), who teaches him ‘the ropes’; which include torture and violence. Farmer forms a friendship with an apparently innocent English speaking prisoner (Omid Abtahi) and he becomes disgusted by the treatment of the prisoners. However, events soon unfold which cause Farmer to lose his innocence and participate in the depravity taking place within the prison.
Moran’s movie is a well paced film that works as a brief overview of the events which unfolded in Abu Ghraib. It doesn’t go into detail of what happened to the prisoner, leaving the audience to imagine what the prisoners exactly went through. Moran does score points for showing the monotony of life on a military camp and how the soldiers deal with this. This works in the favour of Moran’s low budget film which is light on action. There are a few moments of action, but this is a mainly a character piece which uses Moran’s Farmer to guide the audiences through the events. Shot in New Mexico, Prisoner Of War has a solid visual palette and Moran makes the best of his limited resources. The young cast do well as the over eager soldiers who are never given the opportunity to utilise their training on the battlefield.
Prisoner Of War raises a lot of questions and Moran attempts to show how the events Abu Ghraib may have gotten out of hand. However, there’s a superficiality to proceedings which give the impression that Moran didn’t feel brave enough to push the envelope and take things into darker territory. That’s not to say that the film isn’t good, but it feels a little like a leaked government document which has all the interesting bits redacted.