Based on a true story only in the loosest sense, "Boys of Abu Ghraib" dramatizes the torture of terror suspects at the hands of American guards during the Iraq war.
Unlike the few documentaries on the subject, the film views the events through an American serviceman's perspective and argues that Abu Ghraib was as much a prison sentence for some of the captors as it was for their detainees.
Writer-director-star Luke Moran retreads many archetypes and tropes left over from movies about the Vietnam and Korean wars, refusing to engage modern military rules and realities as laid out in his film's contemporaries, such as "The Hurt Locker" and "Lone Survivor."
His screenplay sets an agenda from the get-go and proceeds to check off a list of talking points. At times, "Boys of Abu Ghraib" feels like a political echo chamber.
Incendiary photographs of those human rights violations had already blazed through the 24-hour news cycles and social media, branding horrific sights in our collective consciousness. The film's inability to re-create such imagery greatly hinders its authenticity, glaringly omitting indelible details like the prisoners naked save for head coverings, menacing guard dogs, gleeful contract employees and overarching privatized military-industrial complex. Without planting such cultural signposts, the film hardly scratches Abu Ghraib's surface.
"Boys of Abu Ghraib"
MPAA rating: R for torture and violence, language and sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times