Scratching at the surface, rather than being the hard-hitting expose it clearly wants to be, Prisoner Of War offers a different slant on the recent chaos in Iraq.

Set for the bulk of its running time in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, the film looks to shed some light on the less-than-gentle antics of the American prison guards stationed there, using real-life incidents from 2003 as a backdrop.

The film follows young soldier Jack Farmer (writer-director-star Luke Moran), shipped out to the Middle East for what is supposedly a brief tour of duty.

Eager to gain as much experience as he can, Farmer volunteers for extra shifts at the prison, and before you know it he is striking up a friendship of sorts with captive Ghazi (Omid Abtahi), who stands accused of killing 18 people with a makeshift bomb.

But as evidence of US torture comes to light, and the promised leave of absence becomes instead an extra six months duty, can Farmer remain the affable, somewhat wide-eyed innocent he starts out?

That is the question Moran poses, and it is an interesting one, with the film asking as much about the effect on the US forces themselves, as the punishments they meted out.

Indeed, with the guards holed up in cells of their own (albeit without locks) and chalking off their remaining days, Prisoner Of War makes the case that for many of the troops, Abu Ghraib was just as much a prison as for those held there.

Where the film falls down though is that Moran never really gets under the skin of what went on – very little is shown in the way of torture, nor do we ever really get into the mindset of those responsible, which really dilutes the impact of the film as a whole.

I’m not saying for a second that I wanted endless scenes of brutality filling the screen, but for a film that aims to shed light on the nastiness the Americans got up to, seeing some of that nastiness would have helped.

Performances are pretty strong – Moran is just fine as the affable, easy-going soldier slowly seeing his morals eroded, while there is solid support from Abtahi as the prisoner who may know more than he is letting on.

We also get bookend scenes back in the States, which offers up Jon Heard as Jack’s father and the always cute Sara Paxton as the soldier’s girl.

Pacing wise the film is sluggish at times – never boring, but drifting when it should be punching you in the gut.

In fact, at times the film could easily be a stage play, with an obvious low-budget, limited sets and a small cast.

That is no bad thing though, with Moran offering up an adult, interesting tale with a sting in the tail – just don’t expect too much.

Prisoner Of War is available to buy via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/prisoner-of-war-2014/id905466961

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.