Boys of Abu Ghraib (R)

Drama 102 March 28, 2014
By Michael Nordine
"At Abu Ghraib, we do not fight terrorists; we fight boredom." Fictional drama Boys of Abu Ghraib in general, and lines like this in particular, are crafted to explain, but thankfully never excuse, what transpired at the infamous military prison of the title. Once setting up fights to the death between scorpions no longer suffices, boredom wins and fresh-faced Jack Farmer (Luke Moran, who also wrote and directed) asks for a transfer to the military police (read: guard) division. He's taken aback upon seeing the horrible treatment detainees receive there but feels powerless to push for significant change from within the facility: Jack is a decent person, but he proves the truism about the success of evil needing nothing more than the inaction of good men. As a clear audience surrogate, he initially seems the best of the worst -- and certainly of stronger moral fiber than the more experienced and embittered guard (Sean Astin) who shows him the ropes -- which often makes it too easy for enlightened viewers observing his disgust to think, "I would react the same way in this situation."

Though an understandable approach, this reflects a halfhearted attempt at truly getting inside these men's and women's heads to make sense of their actions, which is ostensibly the purpose of dramatizing such a recent and shameful ordeal. The manner in which Jack slowly becomes what he once hated is akin to a supervillain's origin story, but what follows is too by-the-numbers for the emotional impact to resonate as long as it could and should have.
Luke Moran Sean Astin, Sara Paxton, Luke Moran, John Heard, Omid Abtahi Luke Moran

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