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Originally published August 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 10, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Movie review

"No End in Sight" an impressive first film

In the crowded field of documentaries investigating the origins of the United States' involvement in the Iraq war, "No End in Sight" (winner...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3.5 stars

Showtimes

"No End in Sight," a documentary narrated by Campbell Scott, with Richard Armitage, Walter Slocombe, Barbara Bodine, Paul Hughes, Jay Garner. Written and directed by Charles Ferguson.

102 minutes. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences (contains gruesome war images).

In the crowded field of documentaries investigating the origins of the United States' involvement in the Iraq war, "No End in Sight" (winner of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival documentary jury prize) looks and feels like an extended version of PBS' "Frontline."

It's an impressive first film by Charles Ferguson — a political scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder of Vermeer Technologies (developers of Microsoft's FrontPage software) — that goes over information that has been exhaustively researched before. But its list of interviewees includes a number of insiders once deeply involved in the bungled aftermath of America's invasion of Iraq. It also includes some shocking, on-the-ground footage from the war that has not been seen elsewhere.

Ferguson skillfully dissects the Bush administration's inability or unwillingness to commit to securing peace in Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein. He might lapse into heavy-handedness here and there; for example, cutting from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's witty news conferences to gruesome images of urban battlefields. But Ferguson's access to key players — including Richard Armitage, former second-in-command at the State Department, and ambassador Barbara Bodine, originally in charge of Baghdad for the U.S. occupation — is impressive. Overall, the film is cogent, penetrating and certainly timely, given this summer's debates about troop levels in Iraq.

The film essentially asks how we got, over a period of six years, from a terrorist attack on America to a point where much of Iraq is controlled by armed rebels and a civil war of sorts exists between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

Ferguson reminds us frequently that very few of the people who took us into Iraq have ever been in the military, let alone a war. This includes, Ferguson notes, the likes of L. Paul Bremer, director of a provisional government in Iraq following the first phase of the war, and Walter Slocombe, director of security and defense under Bremer.

Ferguson's point is that so many disastrous decisions about conducting the Iraq war, and failing to support peace afterward, were made in a vacuum of inexperience for which tens of thousands have paid with their lives.

Even if you've seen a few of these Iraq war documentaries, it's still helpful to go over the same ground once in a while both to understand the past and what remains to be done.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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