The Power of Nightmares | Chicago Reader

The Power of Nightmares

Produced for the BBC in 2004, Adam Curtis's three-hour polemical essay about the conceptually nonsensical but mythically potent “war on terror” is the most informative and stimulating film treatment of the subject to date. Curtis begins with the collapse of liberal idealism, charts the parallel development of radical Islam (starting with Egyptian author Sayyid Qutp) and American neoconservatism (starting with Leo Strauss), and argues that Osama bin Laden encourages the lies and hype of Bush and Blair. The symmetries are too neat to be entirely persuasive, and as Curtis approaches the present, his arguments are more open to dispute (like his assertion that Al Qaeda doesn't really exist). Yet the film is witty, intelligent, and brilliant in its use of archival elements, ranging from Egyptian TV commercials to images from The Thief of Bagdad and music from Citizen Kane.

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