'Imminent Threat': Film Review

Courtesy of Mance Media

A heavy-handed collection of familiar arguments against governmental overreach.

Has the "war on terror" turned us into the enemy?

It's hard to imagine a single American willing to shell out money to see a political documentary who doesn't already know nearly everything they'll be told in Imminent Threat, Janek Ambros's omnibus about governmental overreach in the post-9/11 world. Certainly one could argue that the shortage of meaningful action on domestic spying, remote-control killing and suppression of dissent proves that more citizens must voice their disapproval. But this crudely crafted film will be one of the least effective voices in that ongoing debate; only the support of actor James Cromwell, who lends his name here as exec-producer, gives the doc a chance of attracting more than the usual rabble-rousing crowd.

Subtlety is not on the menu in a film that superimposes flames on the U.S. Constitution, then cuts to a happily applauding U.S. Congress, then repeats the back-and-forth three more times while kooky slide-whistle jazz plays in the background. Later, Ambros will show the infamous moment in which George W. Bush joked about his inability to find the weapons of mass destruction he used to justify the Iraq invasion, then play the crowd's sickening laughter for 18 long seconds over violent war footage.

Plenty of other lapses in taste muddy the rhetorical water here, making one feel uneasy about agreeing with so much of what the film says. Any politically aware viewer will have had plenty of time to form opinions on matters such as America's vaguely defined, never-ending "war on terror," the NSA's surveillance programs, drone warfare and so on. Few will need to be reminded that Barack Obama promised to reverse presidential overreach before doubling down on it, or that intelligence officials lied brazenly to their Congressional overseers.

On the very rare occasions when an onscreen assertion raises an eyebrow — say, when activist Jodie Evans claims that drones kill 99% civilians, with only 1% of deaths being the people we've targeted — the doc hasn't built up enough credibility for us to take it at its word. Institutional voices from the ACLU and libertarian organizations aside, the highest-profile interviewee Ambros gets is former congressman Tom Campbell — a surprise, given the parade of scholars, journalists and policymakers who have spoken to the makers of other, more persuasive films about these very subjects.

Director-Screenwriter-Producer-Director of photography-Editor: Janek Ambros

Executive producers: Jillian Barba, James Cromwell, D.J. Dodd, Anthony A. LoPresti

Music: Corey Wallace, Chris Zabriskie

No rating, 71 minutes