Acknowledging the horrors at Guantanamo Bay is easy, but showing them onscreen without resorting to sensationalism proves beyond the capabilities of Stefan Schaller’s “5 Years.” Based on the true story of Turkish-German Murat Kurnaz, imprisoned for half a decade in Guantanamo, the pic is awash in obvious setups that, combined with Schaller’s difficulty in creating three-dimensional characters, results in a tedious slog of well-meaning cliches. Euro smallscreen play is likely, which is where it belongs.
Pic begins with such a relentless level of aggression, with U.S. soldiers screaming obscenities and beating prisoners, that there’s nowhere to go. Following torture, Kurnaz (Sascha Alexander Gersak) is interrogated by crisp U.S. officer Gail Holford (Ben Miles), via the usual trajectory of winning the prisoner’s trust followed by psychological blackmail. Flashbacks fill in some of Kurnaz’s background in Bremen (disaffected youth recruited by nefarious Islamists), though why he was in Pakistan and Afghanistan is never clear. The overall impression is of a naive guy whose stubbornness gets him through, but that makes his ordeal disturbing rather than involving. Incongruously, prisoners communicate among themselves in English. Tech creds are standard.