This movie takes a different turn from the conventional movie plots. Most American movies plots culminate in “happy ending” in which the protagonists engage a number of witty moves and maneuvers to prevent some bad action from the villain(s) and consequently bring them into account.
The plot in this movie details how an imminent terrorist attack is being responded to by the British government operatives. Cast on two fronts, Dirty War trails a team of terrorists who plan, ship, assemble and ultimately explode a bomb in the financial district of London (Percival). On the second front, the government authorities are planning on how to stop the impending attack.
Several terrorist cells are operating in Britain. Following several years of planning an attack by Muslim extremists, it is ready to be executed. The British authorities namely the Scotland Yard race against time to foil the attack but they seem to have no idea of what the attack would be (Percival).
This team comprise of the head of the anti terrorism unit who has been charged with protecting London from any attacks. In a strange twist, the team also consists of a woman, a Pakistani Muslim operating under the Scotland Yard and charged with investigating another Islamic terror cell.
Alongside this team are the first responders namely the firemen and other emergency service personnel. Ironically as preparations by terrorists strike reach top notch, this team is conducting a routine drill to simulate how they would respond to an attack oblivious of the unfolding realities.
The drill exposes serious flaws and shortcomings in their response system. The response team has inadequate training, equipment, manpower and lack proper coordination (Percival). Lastly, there is the political class of the authorities that invariantly keep on assuring the public that all is in place to combat any terrorist threat despite these obvious shortcomings.
Meanwhile, unknown to the British authorities the terrorist cell operating in London has smuggled radioactive materials namely uranium in packages disguised as cooking oil. In addition, they have devised some means to explode it my making a dirty bomb from conventional explosives.
As several of these dirty bombs are exploded in London’s subway entrances by the suicide bombers on one morning, the whole area goes chaotic (Percival). Scores of commuters are left dead, more are injured but even more dangerous is the radioactive plumes that have been dispatched to the environment, with a potential of killing and adversely affecting more people in the contaminated environment.
The Scotland Yard is taken unawares. As they are joined by the police, the MI-5 and MI-6 to prevent further attacks and seize any more bombs and perpetrators, the firefighters are indulged in a risky search and rescue operation. Meanwhile, another team is working to neutralize the radioactively contaminated area before the menace takes its toll on any more victims.
As the operation intensifies the joint Scotland Yard, MI-5 and MI-6 team manage to intercept several more bombs before being exploded as well as arrest several of the terrorists (Percival). As the authorities eventually take charge of the situation, the health care facilities find themselves in this lack of preparedness. They can hardly handle the huge number of casualties seeking treatment.
As the plot takes us through various terrorists and suicide bombers and their cells, the director of the movie allows us to understand their personal lives. In the movie, we see the terrorists as real people who have their own families, extremely smart but consumed by loyalty to their cause. The terrorists are portrayed as realistic people with intend in causing destruction (Percival).
This movie, unlike many others dwelling on Islamic terrorism takes the issue of terrorism very seriously. This depiction allows us to take terrorism as serious as we should. By allowing us to see the terrorists this way, a benefit many other filmmakers would not allow us, the movie evokes a great deal of empathy for the terrorists. Although this does not necessarily mean that we feel bad when they die for their actions, the scenes become scary when the villains are being punished.
The movie largely avoids the circumstances that give rise to international terrorist cells and focus on the vulnerability of the homeland. Scarier is the inability of the Scotland Yard’s finest to crack the terrorist cell before the perpetration of the attacks. This focus also sends a message that, each city is prone to a terrorist attack and how difficult it is to stop an impeding attack. In this real world of terrorist threat, the plot shows how hard it would be to deal with a nuclear attack as well how difficult the job becomes for the relevant authorities.
The last issue that probably emerges from watching this movie is the issue of preparedness. Could assurances by the political class on security of the citizen be trusted? Could any country or city claim to be prepared for any kind of terrorist attack and especially nuclear attack? How well is London prepared for the security of all the citizens from around the world participating or attending the London 2012 Olympics to be held in several months time?
Percival, Daniel. Dirty War. HBO Films, 2004.