By Owen Gleiberman
Updated July 05, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

When you watch a ripped-from-the-headlines docudrama, there’s an easy way to judge how well it works as a movie: Do you feel as if you’re getting the story behind the headlines, or do you just wind up thirsting for the detail of an in-depth news report? The Road to Guantánamo left me with both feelings at once. It’s based on the true story of three British nationals of Arab descent who, in September 2001, journeyed to Pakistan and then, on a lark, to Afghanistan, where they were captured by the Northern Alliance and shipped to the prison compound at Guantánamo Bay.

Our deepest curiosity — and, let’s be honest, it’s at once political and voyeuristic — is to see, reenacted, the hellish interrogation and torture scenarios we’ve read about countless times. These scenes carry a horrific charge, yet I wouldn’t say they’re well staged; the actors playing U.S. officers ham it up like Hollywood prison wardens. I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything subtle about the abuse that’s gone on at Guantánamo, only that a better movie would have revealed the insidious system of thought that could result in Americans shutting down freedom. Codirector Michael Winterbottom whips up a lot of handheld sound and fury as he weaves in interviews with the three actual former prisoners, who prove oddly unilluminating. Here’s one case where it’s no praise to say that a movie leaves you with more questions than answers.