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Sunday, July 20, 2014


FBI Explodes a Car BombPhoto Credit: FBI
2014, 80 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

This movie made me mad that four people were convicted of terrorism.  Why?  Go watch The Newburgh Sting, which premieres on HBO tonight.  The Newburgh Sting isn't the greatest piece of documentary filmmaking ever, but is certainly a necessary one, as it presents a very relevant news story from a very different point of view.

In 2009, four men were convicted of attempting to blow up a synagogue and shoot down military planes flying out of a base in New York in an FBI sting operation.  These men were not the best guys around, but not terrorists.  Not even close.  They were all Muslim and they were led into this "terror plot" by an FBI informant who was posing as a jihadist.  Watch the movie to find out what happened after.

Directors Kate Davis and David Heilbroner (also co-editors of the film) do an excellent job at keeping this movie moving.  At 80 minutes it's the perfect length and the pace rarely ever sags.  They provide a very compelling case for why this FBI sting operation was entrapment and include some wonderful footage and photographs from the FBI's investigation.  We get to see quite a bit of footage of the FBI informant setting the "terrorists" up, which really brings this story to life.

I can't fault The Newburgh Sting for much, but I am not giving it a perfect score because there's nothing really extraordinary about it.  It is essentially a long-form news piece that's unusually interesting.  While compelling and well-made, it didn't have a large impact on me.

Overall, The Newburgh Sting is a good film that I believe many will find fascinating.  It provides some much-needed criticism of the FBI's informant program and reminded me of Joe Berlinger's recently-released film Whitey in many ways.  If you have 80 minutes to spare tonight, I'd certainly recommend spending them on The Newburgh Sting.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.  You could do a lot worse than this.


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