Dirty Wars (2013)

6.5 Overall Score

Subject that needs investigation

The subject matter is lost due to the pretentious self-indulgent nature of the reporter Jeremy Scahill

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Dirty Wars

Studio:  Sundance Selects

Genre(s):  Documentary/War

Release Date(s):  January 18, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


I’m a nice guy and a great reporter…just ask me and I’ll take almost 2 hours to tell you.

The United States is waging a secret war within a war.  Forces attempting to stop terrorists attacks are targeting innocents and even American citizens. Jeremy Scahill investigates these attacks and invasions at their origins and questions what the cost of winning this war could be.

Directed by Richard Rowley, Dirty Wars is based on the book written by Jeremy Scahill who also contributes to the script.  The documentary was released to critical acclaim and received a nomination for Best Feature Documentary losing to 20 Feet from Stardom.


This is my giant pinboard where I write up all bad reporter cliches…and make sure I hit them all

Dirty Wars poses a real problem as a film.  You have a subject which is probably true, which needs to be examined, and which is very scary…and the creating force behind the film ruins any chance of the message being effective.

I believe in the subject of Dirty Wars.  I think that the United States probably is getting itself in a bit deeper than it initially planned, not due to any person or leader, but due to the national sentiment that has been building:  Us (or U.S.) versus them.  Those in power need to listen to the people and the people have been demanding reparations for 9-11.  Unfortunately, revenge could mean even more enemies.


The people Rowley forgot he

With both the government feeding off the people and the people feeding off the government, the tail wagging the dog doesn’t even apply anymore.  It just builds hate and anger in America and foreign countries who are targeted.  These are kind of the basic themes of this film if they are boiled down, but to get to this message, you have to listen to one of the most pretentious reporters I’ve heard in a while.

Jeremy Scahill is a real problem.  He keeps forgetting that the story is about a secret war and what it does to a culture.  He will examine people, but the movie keeps coming back to how courageous and smart he is to figure it out.  It is pretentious and self-indulgent.  He doesn’t come off as a good reporter (which he might be)…he comes off as a monotone investigator in love with himself.


Hey guy, we’re even bored with you and you’re trying to help us!

I also am not a fan of the very stylized film nature of the documentary.  Most of the footage feels highly processed and shot for the story.  Images of Scahill struggling with the weight of his great research fill the movie.  Be it riding in cars, walking down the street, or the heavy brow during an interview, there is far too much Scahill and not enough of the victims and fighters of the dirty wars.

Dirty Wars is a documentary that ultimate didn’t work for me.  It loses its objective and in losing the direction of an important subject, it really lets down the people it is about.  From what I saw of Scahill, I wasn’t impressed, but he also is probably the type of guy who wouldn’t even understand the criticism if confronted with it…he’s too into himself.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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