Director: Charles Ferguson,
Watched in: Theater,
No End in Sight may seem like any other big-screen documentary, one of the rare few that is allowed to play in theaters before it is launched into the infinite online universe. The movie is polished to a professional sheen, narrated with a somber but commanding presence by Campbell Scott, with interviews lighted in deep, rich colors that suggest a hefty budget. But unlike the assembly-lined facile professionalism of an Alex Gibney film, there is a heightened and intensely sober intelligence at work.
The movie presents little new general information. It is now common knowledge, unless you live under a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker, that the Bush administration committed a series of grevious errors in the first few months of the Iraq war that virtually guaranteed the mess we are now in. The power of No End in Sight lies not necessarily in its recitation of these errors—although they are mind-boggling—but in the way the director of the film has managed to bring together, in one place, a veritable battering ram of expert opinion vilifying nearly every decision this administration made in the early days of the war. The men and women interviewed here were hired by Bush’s team because they knew what they were doing—people with years of foreign policy training, people who knew how to establish communication and chains of command in countries we were occupying, military strategists with decades of experience in other wars—and yet, and yet…nearly every important decision they were paid to make was undermined or overruled by a small cadre of neo-conservative dunderheads with little or no experience. Cheney, Rumsfield, and Paul Bremer formed a triad of incompetence so unprepared for an undertaking of this sort that they resorted to the only trait they were masters at: stubborn, willful, insulting, obstinacy. What is great about No End in Sight is that there is no denying the expert testimony of the talking heads. They form a jury of such damning precision that the movie may as well have been called “No Where to Hide.”
First-time director Charles Ferguson was a software millionaire, a political scientist, a researcher and a scholar, before he became a filmmaker, and the only reason he made the film was because no one else was making it. He felt that the concise, telescoping power of a movie, with all of the major behind-the-scenes players talking about the rug that was pulled out from under them, would illuminate not the lies that led us to war—Ferguson has stated that he was actually in favor of removing Saddam Hussein from power—but the colossal mistakes that were made even after the Bush administration got what they wanted. Ferguson can’t quite get at the root of the dismaying arrogance of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Bremer, et al—that would take a psychiatrist, or an expert in Freudian neurosis—but he does expose and explain something even more terrifying than mere lying: that we are being led by maniacs.