Friday, 8 January 2016

Film Review - Documentary - Dirty War

Dirty War is a 2004 docu-drama directed by Daniel Percival, the film portrays a dirty bomb attack on London from a realistic perspective. A dirty bomb is a bomb loaded with radioactive material designed to cause widespread contamination across a wide area.

The film follows three principal groups; the Islamic terrorist group responsible for carrying out the attack, the London police services who respond to the crisis and the fire-brigade who investigate the bombing site. Dirty War is a docu-drama in that it presents a scenario in a realistic interpretation, in this case it deals specifically with a radioactive bomb and the consequences of its detonation in an urban area.
The key themes of the film are the motives of the terrorist cell, the struggle of the police and fire brigades to cope with the immediate crisis and in particular the public who fail to cope with the extreme measures imposed on them by the rescue services and disintegrate into panic.

The beginning of the film starts with a quote by a high ranking member of the security services stating that a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) attack on the UK will very likely in the coming years. Radioactive material is smuggled from turkey into the UK disguised in containers of cooking oil, it reaches its buyers in a small rented house in London where a group of men create the explosive device. Despite some leads and raids by the London police the terrorist group manages to detonate the device near Liverpool Street Underground station. The explosions kills many and contaminates large numbers of the public and surrounding buildings, the police and fire services respond but find their progress hindered by overcomplicated response procedures, the media and the actions of the public that prevent other emergencey services from successfully rendezvousing at the explosion site.

The facts about the impacts of dirty bombs sometimes contrasts with the narrative presented in the film, for instance according to a fact sheet by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission dirty bombs would not possess enough radioactive material to cause widespread radiation related deaths, instead "an RDD explosion could create fear and panic, contaminate property, and require potentially costly cleanup." (NRC, 2012). In the films conclusion however the afflicted area of London is cordoned off and will remain hazardous for many decades, the ensuing aftermath has great economic and social consequences for the people of London. 

There are however more realistic scenes in the film such as the depiction of the public who quickly disintegrate into a panic stricken state and begin overwhelming hospitals and violently breaking through police quarantines.

The film has some grounds in reality, in 2004 a man named Dhiren Barot conspired to detonate dirty bombs near financial districts in the United States and the United Kingdom.

(NRC, 2012, fs-dirty-bombs.html [ONLINE] Available at: (Accessed January 5th, 2016)

Figure 1
Daniel Percival, 2004, dirty-war-4-1.jpeg [ONLINE] Available at: (Accessed January8th 2016)


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