Dirty War

Dirty War (2004)
HBO Home Video
Extras: Commentary Track

From HBO comes a tight thriller that is not only utterly suspenseful and accurate, but also horribly frightening in the potential prospect it delivers. It is centered around a fanatical terrorist splinter cell preparing an attack on London while the officials try to catch up with them, preventing London from the dire consequences of such an attack. It has been written and directed by Daniel Percival who already made quite an impact with his 2002 terrorist thriller "Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon."

British intelligence is picking up the bodies of two suicide bombers and begin trying to tracing their lines of origin. Where do they come from and who did they work with? Bringing in a female Muslim detective to help with the case the Homeland Security Team at Scotland Yard soon discover hints that another Islamic terrorist cell is planning a potential bomb attack on London. As they begin observing the suspects it soon becomes evident that they are witnessing the final steps of an operation that was in the planning for a long time. But everything changes when they discover the body of a man who was killed by radiation. Their worst nightmares come true as the threat of an attack using a dirty bomb is suddenly preeminent – a traditional bomb that contains radioactive material that is blasted in the air during the explosion, contaminating everything within an unpredictable radius. The clock is ticking as they race to put an end to the operation… but they may be too late.

"Dirty War" is a remarkable movie, one that challenges and makes you think. The strongest emotion it created in me was anger. It makes me so angry to see and know that these Islamic fanatics are out there with only one thing on their mind. To destroy Western society at any cost. The worst thing about it is that it has nothing to do with their religious beliefs, really, or an actual fight for their beliefs. It is an inbred hatred and fanatism that has been conditioned for generations without most of them actually understanding what it is they are rebelling against.

The movie also makes a point of showing that we can never be prepared enough. It is illustrated by a complacent minister of London who feels spending a few bucks here and buying a few protective suits there makes "London as prepared as anyhow possible." She can’t even do the most basic math to see the scale of a potential attack to put it in relationship with the requirements of an emergency. To her it’s all about looking good in front of the cameras and saying the right thing to keep people at ease. Remind you of someone you’ve been seeing for years now, constantly reading off teleprompters without ever saying a word of his own? You bet it does. Government complacency, incompetence and tunnel-vision, combined with a lack of brain muscle spells disaster and the movie does a great job illustrating just how disastrous it can be, conjuring up images of 9/11 in the viewer’s mind. If anyone tries to tell you that we are prepared, they’re lying. We are not and never will be.

The DVD features a 1.78:1 <$PS,widescreen> transfer of the movie that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> viewing. The image, while generally clean, shows excessive grain and noise in certain shots, mostly very dark interior shots and nighttime scenes. The grain is more manageable in most scenes of the film but the transfer always seems to lack shadow definition as dot crawl invades the picture’s darker areas. Color reproduction is good with a natural looking palette and hues that are never oversaturated. A hint of edge-enhancement is evident in select shots as well. While this is not a really good transfer its quality is still very watchable even on large displays.

The audio on the release comes as a 5.0 channel <$DD,Dolby Digital> track that is very restrained. Surround channels are used infrequently as the majority of the mix is happening in the front. Only towards the end when the movie becomes bustling with activity the surrounds really kick in, creating an ambience that is equally busy form all directions.

As an extra, HBO is providing a <$commentary,commentary track> by director/co-writer Daniel Percival and co-writer Elizabeth Mickery as they discuss the film in a lot of detail. This commentary is incredibly detailed and full of information beyond the scope of the actual film at times, showing just how well the two researched the material and how they based many elements of their story on reality. They also discuss the characters in a lot of detail, to show what the thought process was behind creating these characters and how to make them believable and real for the film. It’s a great <$commentary,commentary track> that wonderfully supplements the film itself.

"Dirty War" is an impressive piece of film that everyone should take a look at. It’s too bad the transfer is a bit on the weak side but with everything going on in the plot, I guarantee you, you won’t even have much time to notice its shortcomings. The story is so well paced and plotted that you will be sucked in entirely all the way to the end, at which point you will be left pondering as to what the world can expect next. This film gets my thumbs up and comes absolutely recommended.