The Invisible War – Review

 

As far as Hollywood documentary makers go, it’s a travesty that Kirby Dick is never afforded the same level of exposure as the likes of Morgan Spurlock or Michael Moore. With This Is Film Is Not Yet Rated still the definitive glimpse into film censorship and ratings, and Outrage still a harrowing look at governmental anti-gay attitudes, Dick’s work speaks for itself. For better or worse, Dick assumes the underdog side of a grand injustice and argue tooth and nail in it’s defense, the results typically being insightful, engaging and, above all, informative. But while Outrage may have been his darkest subject to date, it doesn’t even begin to compare to the utterly mortifying subject of The Invisible War, in which he casts his eye to the apparently endemic problem of rape in the US military.

 

An exposé of the rape of a (frankly staggering) number of women serving in the US military, The Invisible War charts these women as they recount their individual stories and the administrative cover ups that followed, in most cases even taking us into the aftermath that plagues their daily lives to this day. Some, for instance, have resulting injuries that the VA refuse to adequately cover treatment for, others face severe emotional trauma nearly a decade on, the specifics may vary from case to case, but the result is the same.

 

A harrowing subject to deal with at any time, Dick makes the wise decision from the get-go to withdraw his personality entirely from events depicted – allowing instead for both the victims and those in positions of authority to speak for themselves. In terms of the alleged perpetrators, no names are named, however the film on more than one occasion does go out of it’s way to inform us of their continued service and advancement in an institution that really doesn’t seem to deem their crime worth bothering with. It’s a hard watch, a lip-biting insight into something that’s hard to believe could be condoned by anyone, let alone take place in a civilised world. One particular moment, in which a serving member of the armed forces discusses his response to his daughter’s tale, is possibly the most soul-destroying on-screen moment of the year so far; handled expertly by Kirby Dick’s admirable restraint with a (beyond) touchy subject.

 

As a crafted documentary, it’s not flawless. Certain scenes have clearly been skilfully edited to present a longer-seeming passage of time for instance, whilst one of Dick’s subjects comes across as disconcertingly self-aware in the presence of a camera. It also suffers the same cinematic issue as last year’s superb Blackfish, in that – despite clearly being a documentary of immense social importance – it seems almost detrimental being on a cinema screen and not in front of a wider-viewed television audience who can take it to the water cooler the next day and generate the buzz it deserves. It’s not Kirby Dick’s best film – that title will always go to the deeply satirical This Film Is Not Yet Rated – however The Invisible War is, without a doubt, his most socially important.

 

 

Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.

 

In it
Amy Ziering, Kori Cioca

Behind it
Kirby Dick




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