Directed by Kirby Dick. STC. 99 min. Opens Aug. 3.
Though statistics about the U.S. military tend to be dispiriting for all kinds of reasons, many of the figures cited in The Invisible War are especially upsetting. According to an estimate by the Department of Defense, 19,000 violent sex crimes were committed against members of the military in 2010 alone. Somewhere in the region of 20 per cent of all active-duty female soldiers have been sexual assaulted by others in uniform. Yet according to the evidence collected in this justifiably angry doc by director Kirby Dick (who also made This Film Is Not Yet Rated), the military has consistently been more eager to protect the predators in its ranks than prevent more women (and men) from suffering the same.
Not even the embarrassment caused by the Tailhook scandal in 1991 or the history of abuses at the Air Force Academy that came to light a decade ago have done much to change matters. This fact adds an element of urgency to The Invisible War’s prevailing tone of anger. That all this ire is directed toward a bureaucracy as monolithic and dedicated to its own preservation as the U.S. military makes Kirby’s exercise in agit-prop feel somewhat hopeless. or does it take much convincing to see that there’s a problem with a legal system in which every aspect of the prosecution is controlled by the peers and colleagues of the people who are up for review (or that an environment which relies on a rigid code of dominance and subservience may be an ideal hunting ground for a sociopath).
Yet there’s also much that’s moving within the personal stories that Dick foregrounds, especially when his focus shifts from his subjects’ harrowing individual experiences to their collective effort to bring attention to these crimes during a trip to Capitol Hill. They may not find justice but forcing the issue into the public arena is a step toward it.