David Poland, Movie City News, "There is no hysteria in Mr. Abbas, whatever horror he is describing. He is a man with a story. He is a man we believe."
Abbas is a terrific subject because he has suffered at the hands of the Husseins and of the American invaders. The pains and indignities are not a political idea. And we can feel his dignity, no matter what part of the journey we are in.
As in Gunner, Tucker & Epperlein make it clear that regular life, and even joy, continues in the midst of all that is going on in the streets of Iraq. They also understand the paranoia of those streets and bring it to life succinctly and without overdramatizing.
Tucker's skills have become more sophisticated over these years. He is trying new things in editing and knows how to let the quiet moments play so that it feels as calm as real life most often does. Epperlein provides striking, clever, almost comic book-like graphics that cradle the storytelling in an oddly effective way.
There is no hysteria in Mr. Abbas, whatever horror he is describing. He is a man with a story. He is a man we believe. Abbas' normalcy is what makes him and his story so extraordinary. And the filmakers have taken that energy and infused this whole film with it, even when they are making a mockery of detainee processing with graphics of happy and sad faces stick-figuring out of Abu Ghraib capes that you'll recognize from the photos that exposed problems there. And everything is backed up with a lot of facts explained clearly, simply, and rage-inducingly.
And so there is hope for more important, compelling films about Iraq. But the bar has become higher. Perhaps the Pat Dollard doc will blow us all away. I know that The Prisoner is a completely engaging hour that requires your attention, your focus, and for your mind to be as open as the man who has suffered at the hands of both sides of this war.
For me, Abbas is a hero like Paul Rusesabagina is a hero. He is not a superhero. He is a man who has suffered and seen many remarkable and horrible things. And he remains above it. That is a human power that is hard to do anything less than admire without restraint. In an odd way, with such a different style and so much rage, Dollard seems to be after the same thing... humanizing people he fears have been dehumanized by America, even the America that hates the war. His immaturity is apparent in his need to shout, though perhaps that will find a way to touch many who can't hear any other way. And Epperlein & Tucker... like aged whiskey... are smooth and skilled and able to get you where they want to take you without shoving your nose in it. In an era of handicams, I can't tell you what a relief that is for me.