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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Iron Man (review)

Recommended Daily Dose of Iron

He’s not Batman or Superman. He’s not in the public consciousness the way the Dark Knight or the Caped Crusader Man of Steel are. (He’s beloved by legions of comic fans, but they’re a far more select crowd.) Our pop-culture lobes aren’t cluttered with the faces of half a dozen different actors who’ve played him over the last half century, or with the memories of the earnest 50s black-and-white TV dramas or the campy candy-colored 60s sitcoms in which he fought evil and embodied the spirit of the era.
No, there’s just this movie, now, and what a doozy of a popcorn-a-licious introduction to Iron Man it is. It spells certain ruin for future incarnations unless they are very, very good indeed, for when someone makes Iron Man: The Web Series in 2026 and someone else reboots Iron Man for 3D sensesurround movies in 2043, everyone will be all, Oh, but Robert Downey Jr. will always be Iron Man for me, and, Oh, but no one can do it like Jon Favreau did.

This might well be the perfect comic book movie, actually. It’s just pertinent enough to feel like it’s set in something like the real world and just tongue-in-cheek enough not to get too heavy about it, but it’s got enough self-respect to be sincere. It manages to be funny in more places than you might imagine without winking at itself, like it doesn’t know it’s a comic book movie, and that all sorts of smirking and jabs in the ribs are supposed to go along with movie adaptations from that medium. Oh, sure, there’s no question that this is Iron Man — the spirit of the character is absolutely intact, and though there’s been some shuffling around, the faces and names and situations will be completely familiar to fans of the comic series, and will pay off in ways they’ll be able to predict. (I’m not one of those fans. I’ve never read the comic book, but after seeing the film, I read some histories of the universe and biographies of the character, and it all looks pretty kosher to me. Of course, your mileage may vary if you’re a dedicated fan of the comic.) But the key thing is: Tony Stark doesn’t think he’s a “superhero.”

And he isn’t. He has no superpowers, unless genius and a preternatural ability to charm the ladies count. Nope: Stark is just your run-of-the-mill billionaire playboy geek — he’s Bill Gates with Austin Powers’ mojo. He heads up Stark Industries, a weapons contractor with sidelines in a few more philanthropical arenas for the PR value, but he’s not just a businessman: he actually designs and builds his deadly toys. He’s a brilliant engineer and inventor… as well as an inveterate party animal who just so happens to be as gorgeous and charismatic (if in a slightly smarmy way) as Robert Downey Jr.

The funny stuff? It’s all Downey (Charlie Bartlett, Lucky You) and the easygoing, reflexive snark that is his trademark. Which isn’t to say that he’s not a vital part of the whole self-respecting sincerity of Iron Man: his snark is, as it always is, his way of armoring a character with deep and intriguing flaws against having to acknowledge those flaws. (One recurring joke about how Stark treats the robotics in his private lab, the kind of robots you might see in an automobile factory, like pet dogs or even sentient creatures, is layered with poignancy because he probably does count these machines as among his very few close relationships.) And when Stark is angry? Downey is nuclear with it — like a slow meltdown, not like a mushroom cloud. But whether Downey is gearing Stark toward funny or mad or somewhere in between — his relationship with his human assistant, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow: Running with Scissors, Infamous), is fraught with all sorts of interpersonal landmines that make for some of the movie’s best moments — Downey exudes a sense of effortlessness, as if he were just making it all up as he goes. Some of Stark’s offhandedness was apparently adlibbed by Downey, but surely the four credited screenwriters — Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (both of whom worked on Children of Men and First Snow), and newcomers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway — contributed their fair share. Downey can’t have done it all on his own: it just feels that way.

Director Jon Favreau (Elf, Made) knows to just stay the hell out of Downey’s way and let him run with a story so deceptively simple that it really does seem as if it’s Faveau’s star doing all the embellishing. On a trip to Afghanistan to push a new weapons system on the U.S. army, Stark is injured and kidnapped by cave-dwelling terrorists, and it’s a full hour into the movie — not that it drags or anything — before Stark has whipped up his first flying suit of armor as a way to escape. Refinements to the suit come later, but there’s relatively little of the crimefighting you’d expect from this kind of superhero origin story. Stark goes, well, ballistic when he discovers what uses his company’s weapons are being put to, and engages in a bit of do-goodery to right that, but still: Stark emphatically isn’t a superhero — a few snide Downey asides about what his life would be like if he were a superhero are well played, and only underline the non-comic-booky vibe here, which plays much more in the science-fiction sandbox. Think Robocop meets Transformers, not “Batman with metal armor.”

But this is, of course, deep down, a superhero origin, and the very funny final line of the film leaves no doubt that there will be a sequel. It’s a nice feeling for a movie to leave you with the sense that that’s a promise, not a threat.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
  • Watched it today, and it was briliant, and staying after the credits have rolled is well worth it (apparently that’s where they put the Sam Jackson clip). Just couldn’t help pointing out that the Dark Knight and the Caped Crusader are both monikers for the Batman.

    Anyway, I thoroughly enjoy reading your reviews, and have been for some time. It’s like a heroin addiction. Thank you for your boundless enthusiasm.

  • Kevin

    Yeah, you should have written “the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel”.

    Otherwise, great review :)

  • Managed to nab some tickets to an advance showing on Thursday night. I am so excited to see this.

  • amanohyo

    I love Robocop, but I hate Transformers. Is the tone of this movie smack in the middle, or does it lean a little closer towards one or the other?

    Also, does the movie show Pepper being actively involved as an assistant as far as engineering and design go, or is she more of a secretary? And most importantly for me, does she ever become a damsel in distress? None of these are deal breakers; I’m just curious.

  • Trackrick

    I won some preview tickets at my local comics shop, so I saw it Tuesday night.

    I’m going to assume that anybody venturing into this thread has either seen the movie or doesn’t mind spoilers (albeit mild ones.)

    To answer amanohyo’s questions… It’s been 20 years since I saw Robocop, but from what I remember of it, I’d say Iron Man is closer to that. It sure doesn’t resemble Transformers much at all.

    Pepper is pretty much a secretary (completely out of the loop in the engineering and design,) but she never really becomes a damsel in distress either. There’s a moment or two where it looks like she’s about to be, but she gets out of it fine and ends up being more of a partner than someone who needs to be saved.

    I agree with MaryAnn’s review. Great movie.

  • Mathias

    “This might well be the perfect comic book movie, actually”

    *Gasps

    Better than Batman Begins?!?

    I guess i’ll find out friday afternoon.

  • MaryAnn

    Oops on the Caped Crusader thing. I do actually know that that’s another name for Batman — I guess I just had capes on the brain or something. I’m with Edna Mode, generally: No capes!

    There was nothing after the credits at the screening I attended — I waited, because I thought there might be. I gotta say, this sets a bad precedent, the studio not showing us the version of the film that’s going out to theaters.

    The film is much closer to the tone of *Robocop,* without the overt satire. But the big battle between Iron Man and the other Iron guy at the end did make me think of *Transformers.*

    Better than *Batman Begins*? For pure comic-bookiness, yes. I love BB, but part of the reason why I love it is that it isn’t *just* a comic book movie. This one really is nothing more — and nothing less — than a comic book. And I mean that as the highest compliment.

  • Great review, great film ;)

  • Just got back from seeing Iron Man. LOVED it. Robert Downey Jr.’s snarkiness (snarky Stark?) is really fun to watch, and I loved the bits where he was working on the suit and his “dialog” with the robots in his lab. And this is the first movie I’ve seen Gwyneth Paltrow in where I really liked her… perhaps all that time away from the big screen has mellowed her out a bit. The fun touches (like the stuff that goes on on his private jet) were icing on the cake.

    Definitely recommended.

  • Allen Darrah

    Did you stay for the post-credits visit from everyone’s favorite Jedi? If you thought what you thought was the last line of the movie set up a sequel you missed what was the the real kicker to all us die hard comic book geeks.

  • Allen Darrah

    Ah… I see now that you did stay, and you didn’t get the kicker!

  • MaryAnn

    See my post here about how press didn’t get to see the post-credits Easter egg.

  • Man, now I have to go see the movie again. Just to confirm, SLJ is in the movie now, at the end of the credits?

  • amanohyo

    Meh, watch the Easter Egg on youtube, it’s nothin’ special. The rest of the movie on the other hand is definitely something special.

    I loooooove to make fun of poorly written scripts in movies, but I can count the wince-worthy lines in this movie on one hand. The writing and acting are uniformly excellent. I still can’t believe I actually enjoyed a popcorn movie at face value… this hasn’t happened in years.

    Even the secretary/boss relationship thing (which would usually make me want to vomit) was handled with some grace.

    One spoiler-free complaint. I’m fine with comic book physics in a comic book movie, but one character learns how to operate a piece of equipment extremely quickly near the end. That’s the only time the script really stumbled noticeably for me.

    Definitely more entertaining than Batman Begins; I think because it doesn’t try to be more than it is and drown in cheesiness. I hope Michael Bay watches it and thinks (In my imagination he thinks with Scooby Doo’s voice) “I guess competent writing really does make a popcorn movie better! Scooby Dooby Doo!!!”

    I am the cheapest (non-pirate) movie-goer on the planet, and for once I’m actually happy that some small part of my six bucks is going to the people involved with this film. This review is right on the money. The best thing is that there was a group of noisy, not so bright, middle-schoolers who were skipping class behind me, and they were bored for most of the running time. If that’s not a stamp of quality script writing, I don’t know what is.

  • amanohyo

    Just for clarity, I loved Batman Begins and I know Bay had nothing to do with its production; those are supposed to be two unconnected thoughts in that paragraph. Just wanted to nip that in the bud. And the previous posters are correct, the movie is definitely closer to Robocop than it is to Transformers, thankfully.

  • MBI

    Dear God, is Gwyneth Paltrow good in this. I’ve never been that impressed with her as an actress, but my God, she’s just amazingly good in this! She also has a surprisingly well-written character to her benefit, but I don’t want to trivialize her contribution. Everyone knew Downey was gonna be good, but who saw Paltrow coming?

    The returns are in and “Iron Man” outdid the predictions, which themselves were pretty freaking high. This makes it the first hit movie about the War on Terror, and that’s not surprising to me seeing as it’s such a fence-straddler. It’s both pro-war and anti-war, a film for everyone on the political spectrum, including me. Loved it.

  • PaulW

    I think your enthusiasm that this is the best comic book movie ever is merely because it’s new and now. It’s in the top 10, I grant you that, but there’s still a lot to be said for Superman I, Incredibles, Batman Begins, Spider-Man II, X-Men and Darkman (I had to throw that one in the list, my college roomie’s uncle was the set designer…)

    What was best about this movie was Downey’s performance, and he does deserve an Oscar nom at least for it, much in the same way Depp deserved the nom for Jack Sparrow (I can hear Ms. Filosopher scream “Captain!” in the background). It’s all in his eyes, the way he reflects them as inscrutable at first, then watch them as he becomes shell-shocked with the realization of what damage his weapons have done to the world (much like the Thousand Yard Stare of war vets), then that puppy dog gaze he develops when he realizes how much he really needs the humans in his life (such as Pepper, and not necessarily as a girlfriend but as an emotional anchor). You win an audience over by being human, not cardboard.

    Oh, and the robot in charge of the fire extinguisher deserves an Oscar nom too. :)

  • amanohyo

    Those movies are all pretty good, and Downey and Paltrow (and the robot) certainly contribute a lot, but the thing that this movie nailed for me was consistency of tone. There are moments in all those movies in your list when some combination of bad writing and poor acting unintentionally break the fourth wall for me. It gets broken in slightly different ways, but it inevitably happens.

    The Incredibles is a little too heavy on slapstick and transparently didactic. Spiderman II and Batman Begins drift into melodrama too often, as if they were caricaturing the comics they were based on. I never thought X-Men was very good, and Superman is so iconic and his random God-like powers are so objectively ridiculous, it’s more like a national myth than a fun comic.

    Watching Iron Man feels like reading a good comic. Not a life-changing, critically praised graphic novel, not an uneven, technically impressive morality play for the whole family, not an action-packed thrillride with no character development, just a good, fun comic. The comedy is situational more than gag based, the action isn’t falling all over itself trying to make you say wow, and there’s practically no clever winking at the fourth wall. It dutifully follows most action movie cliches step by step, but somehow the characters manage to take themselves and their world seriously.. but not too seriously. It’s not in the top 30% of movies I’ve seen or anything, but it’s good, and it’s a popcorny summer comic book blockbuster, and that’s pretty amazing.

    I really hope that Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby stay on to write the sequel, but I doubt they’ll be able to top this effort. The studio is going to strongly encourage whoever writes the next script to pump up the action, trim down the dialogue, and throw in more kid-friendly and ethnic stereotype based gags.

  • Iron Man was practically flawless as a super hero flick; it drops pretty obvious hints that would indicate a sequel as well… i’m thinking the next one should be equally great

  • Robert

    Saw it last night. I thought it was well done from a whiz-bang standpoint. I liked how they showed the development of the hardware, even if the whole business of him assembling the first suit in captivity really stretched the bounds of WSOD.

    While building the new suit, by having the viewer go through the bungling stages of creating it, it makes the final result more believable.

    I don’t think I’ve seen Jeff Bridges in a bad-guy role before, interesting.

    I couldn’t help but notice, while RDJ looked like he’s been hitting the gym, his less than clean living has clearly taken its toll. He’s a tired lookin’ 43. I’d heard -0- about the movie before I saw it other than it was out and I didn’t even recognize him right away. I actually thought he looked a bit long in the tooth to play the part.

    Gwyneth on the other hand looks incredible.

    Maybe it was an editing issue, they seemed to fall into calling the character “Iron Man” with no apparent explanation. I did run out for a quick pee break right at the point where Rhodes gives the press conference outlining the “military exercise”, after saying how it was a cliche’. Was it mentioned there?

    The purpose of the implant device seemed to morph without explanation. We were first told it was a magnet to prevent metal shards in his chest from migrating to his heart. So, Yinsen could build this gizmo and implant it in Stark’s chest but he couldn’t remove the shrapnel? Or additionally, the technology exists to create this super exo-suit and a holographic CAD interface, but not to remove the shrapnel once he’s back in civilization?

    But somehow instead of a temporary means to trap metal shards, the gizmo became a rechargeable battery to make his body and the suit function.

    Wouldn’t telling the world that he’s Iron Man completely nullify his usefulness as a superhero? It would make it impossible for him to function in his day to day life and the bad guys now know who to target.

    I noticed a lot of people hanging around at the end of the movie, so sensing something was up I stuck around. I assume they’d heard about the extra footage which I hadn’t. Okay, a teaser for the next movie. But what the heck, the music during the credits was great.

    During the closing credits some girl at the front of the theater started putting on a little show, twirling a couple of these light gizmos on strings where the light changes colors. Looked sort of like what I’ve seen portrayed as something you might see at a rave. I’ve been to exactly -0- raves, just going by what I’ve seen/heard. Was there some significance to this or was it just a random event?

  • Robert

    Btw, other than Christopher Reeve, why do the studios seem determined to never actually cast anyone who’s over 6′ in a superhero role?

  • Hose A.

    “With a dozen of these I can rule all of Asia” or words to that effect. Now there’s a plan with more holes in it than a screen door. Straight out of the cheesy movie villain cliche’ bin.

  • amanohyo

    Yeah Hose, that’s one of the lines that made me cringe too. The patented “bad guy tells the viewers how bad he is” speech at the end of the movie was also cringe-worthy as was the blatant “next time, baby” sequel-tease and the stale what’s-that-on-the-radar tower talk.

    Robert, the shrapnel in the heart/power source thing is from the origin story in the comic. It’s not quite as essential as Kryptonite, but removing that vulnerability would change the character a lot. And I think the one-girl light show was a spontaneous expression of boredom.

  • JSW

    Wouldn’t telling the world that he’s Iron Man completely nullify his usefulness as a superhero? It would make it impossible for him to function in his day to day life and the bad guys now know who to target.

    What kind of day-to-day life did Stark have, any way? I mean, this isn’t like Peter Parker trying to get through college while being Spider-Man on the side, or Batman depending on fear and mystery for most of his effectiveness. Tony was a big-shot arms dealer from the beginning, which would have made him a target long before he ever put on the suit, and he doesn’t exactly have a whole lot of close family and friends for the villains to use against him.

    Of, and the “Iron Man” name was from a newspaper headline near the end of the movies (when did it become tradition for superheroes/villains to be named by the press, anyway? At least Spider-Man was named by Bruce Campbell.)

  • Robert

    Robert, the shrapnel in the heart/power source thing is from the origin story in the comic. It’s not quite as essential as Kryptonite, but removing that vulnerability would change the character a lot.

    It’s been a long time since I last read an Iron Man comic, though I recall he had a bad heart as his Achilles’ Heel, that he would run out of gas and of course always at the worst possible moment. However the way it’s covered in the movie is very fuzzy. First the gizmo is to keep metal shards away from his heart, but I never saw them clarify that it became his “battery”, they just sort of started referring to it that way, the whole shrapnel thing was forgotten.

    This is the kind of thing I wish screenwriters or whoever is responsible for bringing the story to the screen would pay attention to rather than this *cough cough* mumblethroughtheirfingers let’s just not sweat the details way it’s usually handled. Of course, I’ve generally learned to lower my expectations with this kind of movie, in fact techno spectacles are generally the only kind of movie I see in the theater.

  • Robert

    I queried:

    “Wouldn’t telling the world that he’s Iron Man completely nullify his usefulness as a superhero?”

    To which amanohyo is widely rumored to have replied:

    What kind of day-to-day life did Stark have, any way?

    We see him pursuing skirt-chasing, hotrod building, inventing, running a multibillion-dollar empire, avoiding his true love for Pepper Potts. Sounds like a full schedule to me.

    I mean, this isn’t like Peter Parker trying to get through college while being Spider-Man on the side, or Batman depending on fear and mystery for most of his effectiveness.

    Whatever their lifestyle/life circumstance differences, they still depend on their secret identity being secret for the same reasons. The reasons are endless. You don’t think Iron Man depends on an element of fear & mystery? What the hell *IS* that? Man? Machine? Space alien?

    Further, the bad guys only know who to shoot at when the hero is in costume as well as the fundamental tactical element of surprise. The Uber-baddies don’t think twice about wasting innocent bystanders to take out a superhero who’s foiling their dastardly plans normally, it wouldn’t be any different if they knew where to find them all the time. They’d never get any sleep.

    They also don’t want the press, looney fans & the curious, profiteers, the “Men In Black” to know who to hound when they’re in civilian mode. No doubt Stark has people hounding, hating & adoring him for other reasons, but not because he’s a superhero, which represents an entirely different situation.

  • (the other) robert

    One of my favorite aspects of this movie that doesn’t get as much PR is the chemistry between Paltrow and Downey Jr. The familiarity (and some bred contempt) that Pepper and Tony feel for each other is palpable. I found myself writing their relationship’s backstory–you just know there was a hook-up somewhere in their shared past, which they never spoke of or alluded to again, but which informs their intimacy now.

    As a childhood Marvel devotee, I’ve grinned and bore it thru 3 decades of horrible adaptations of the heroes of my youth. They were either bad interpretations (the Hulk tv show, the laughable Captain America movie), bad adaptations (Fantastic Four), or off-the-chart b.a.d. (Howard the Duck). The Spider Man and XMen franchises had their moments but weren’t always terribly good films (Brett Ratner will do that to ya), but Iron Man would be a great film even if there were not red and white logo at the beginning. It remember to be fun without asking me to check my IQ at the door.

    It’s also nice to see Robert Downey Jr. in a leading role again, one that will garner him gazillions of dollars.

    Onward to Dark Knight and Hancock, which I’m betting will further up the ante on FunnyBook Cinema.

  • amanohyo

    Robert, the rumors are false. JSW is the droid you’re looking for. And I agree, they could have explained the connection between the shrapnel and the power source a little more clearly.

    robert, say it ain’t so. I thought it was just good old-fashioned sexual tension between them; Pepper – as played by Paltrow – seemed too professional and intelligent (and proud) to sink that low.

    That’s why I was a little queasy about the movie at first. Movie (and real life) relationships between bosses and their subordinates usually stray a little too close to prostitution, which kinda kills the romance (and makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit).

    But there was definitely chemistry. I agree with you on that point… I’m just not sold on the failed chemistry experiment.

  • Robert

    Robert, the rumors are false. JSW is the droid you’re looking for.

    Yeah, I had some kind of editing malfunction. I got turned around as to who said what. 1000 pardons.

    [the other] robert, say it ain’t so. I thought it was just good old-fashioned sexual tension between them; Pepper – as played by Paltrow – seemed too professional and intelligent (and proud) to sink that low….I’m just not sold on the failed chemistry experiment

    My take on it wasn’t that there had been a hookup but that there was an undercurrent of desire/affection. In the scene with TS seeing Pepper at the party he seemed taken aback, that he’d never seen her looking quite so stunning before. In fact, I believe he didn’t recognize her at first, he just thought she was a beautiful woman who he might try to hit on.

    Movie (and real life) relationships between bosses and their subordinates usually stray a little too close to prostitution

    If one were a bit crass, one might point out there a lots of relationships that seem like thinly veiled prostitution. Amazing how wealthy, not necessarily greatly attractive men seem to have no problem attracting the company of attractive women considerably their junior.

  • amanohyo

    Yeah, I realize that a lot of men (and women too) find being in a position of power sexy; there’s nothing wrong with role-playing and all that other kinky stuff up to a point. It just gets old when it’s almost always the guy who’s in the position of power (unless it’s some stale dominatrix joke).

    I’m not even comfortable when people hit on their waitress or waiter (I know all about the hostess industry in Japan). But my ideas about romance are admittedly out of date – one too many corny movies I guess.

    At least the writers gave Pepper the intelligence to realize that their burgeoning romance wasn’t appropriate. Too many writers would have let her slip out of character in that moment. Now they can have a Bond/Moneypenny thing for the next movies (only more intimate), and Stark can continue his womanizing for a while, which is a more realistic character arc.

  • Robert

    amanohyo said for all the world to see:

    But my ideas about romance are admittedly out of date – one too many corny movies I guess.

    Doesn’t it depend on which “old-fashioned” model of marriage you envision? There’s the Rebecca Boone Frontier Woman model where the wife is a strong partner & ally, but there’s the concept of a woman looking for some man to marry her and take care of her in exchange for wifely “duties”.

    At least the writers gave Pepper the intelligence to realize that their burgeoning romance wasn’t appropriate. Too many writers would have let her slip out of character in that moment.

    Didn’t she do both? She first expresses all these concerns over their dancing and how people might talk, but then tries to kiss him, which doesn’t happen only because he holds back at the last moment.

  • amanohyo

    Yeah, I guess she did slip quite a bit with the kiss attempt, but at least she said something in character first to try and rationalize away her feelings. Maybe I should have said, the writers didn’t let her slip completely out of character.

  • Pedro

    it almost topped Spider-Man in my superhero list. Downey would have a career-defining performance if he wasn’t an established actor already. then again, maybe it IS a career-defining performance – i don’t remember any other major movie by this guy. Kinda like Elijah Wood and Frodo – he’s been around, but kept a low profile until now.

    all the other actors give great performances too, although Terence Howard is a little shoehorned into the “honourable black man” role – for some reason, i kept seeing Cuba Gooding, Jr. playing his part.

    and there are a few slip-ups – the icing sequence is ridiculous, and the fact that JEFF BRIDGES IS THE VILLAIN!!!!! could not have been bludgeoned home more forcibly. Still, they didn’t make Pepper the “love interest” – kudos to them for that.

    but what i liked best about this movie was the fact that you have to wait until the last half-hour to see any super-heroics – until then, it’s all about characters, baby. and stark’s learning process with the suit? hilarious.

    oh yeah, and all monor gripes are redeemed when tony goes to that party, greets hefner, and when he turns around we see Hefner is really…….

    fucking priceless!

    one of the best comic book movies ever. only parker stands a chance against the mighty Iron Man!

    superman who??

  • Nabi

    It’s really not that good–it’s very derivative of Robocop, a much better film. It has some potentially good sequences but, because of sloppiness in the way they are executed, you aren’t drawn in–absolute suspension of logic is required.

  • paul

    I recently read an article about how the torture he underwent at the hands of Arabs is the same torture Arabs have suffered at the hands of Americans. Apparently that sort of role reversal also happened in movies about Vietnam. With projection like that, I could almost start rereading Freud.

  • jtt

    posted by paul (June 10, 2008 5:04 PM)

    I recently read an article about how the torture he underwent at the hands of Arabs is the same torture Arabs have suffered at the hands of Americans. Apparently that sort of role reversal also happened in movies about Vietnam. With projection like that, I could almost start rereading Freud.

    It’s called waterboarding. It’s what the CIA did at Abu Ghraib prison in Guantanamo Bay. The press often refers to it as “simulated drowning,” but that’s not exactly accurate. The more accurate way to describe it as actual drowning, but not to the point of death.

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