Ambush in Waco Review

The story:


Based on the Waco tragedy, this film takes us through the background of Vernon Howell (aka “David Koresh”) up to the final shootout with the ATF agents (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). Vernon starts out as a rock guitarist/minister who has become gradually deluded with the mainstream church. He joins the Davidians and takes over the sect as his own. Gradually, his theology grows to be even more wacky when he finally claims to be the second-coming of Jesus... However, he has been practising a pretty alternative form of holiness in having intercourse with up to 19 women and teenagers in the cult and preparing for the battle of Armageddon by amassing stockpiles of weaponry and ammunition... The child welfare agencies are closing in on them as well as the ATF who are planning to raid the compound... Sadly we all know the final end to the story which resulted in their mass suicide by fire.

This film was in fact made for TV and as far as I remember was being made literally days after the incident - probably some network suits bright idea for cashing in on it at the time... After all I can remember that almost the entire siege was shown live on CNN as well as the fire that consumed it. The film was made in the frame of the “In the Line of Duty” series which, I imagine, looks at the US military/police ...well... doing their duty! Due to this the film focuses equally on the ATF as much as the Davidians... The ATF according to this film were just trying to do their job and the final credits seems to bemoan the death of the 4 ATF officers as a great tragedy but pass very fleetingly over the Davidians deaths... This film does seem to have a certain bias against the Davidians whilst avoiding some of the glaring questions that were in my mind whilst I was watching it - Isn't their something intrinsically wrong in a society where you can legally buy semi-automatic weapons by the shipload? Knowing Koresh's state of mind - i.e. that Babylon was about to come and crucify him - why didn't the ATF try the pacific option of searching the ranch rather than the gung-ho approach? and is it really that easy to get hand-grenades mailed to you in the US?
The actors, although not A-list, perform quite adequately considering the medium - thankfully not overplaying their parts. Timothy Daly stars as Koresh and Dan Lauria plays the head of the ATF, Bob Blanchard. The cinematography isn't too bad and to be honest is quite above par considering the usual level of US made for TV true stories and the actor direction is more than adequate. Not really that bad a TV-film all in all if you accept the possible bias previously discussed. Although definitely not as good as a well-researched documentary, those who can cope with this type of films will enjoy it.

The image

The image is presented in full-frame format which was the original aspect ratio. The image quality is a bit of a letdown getting far too soft at times and seeming out of focus. This doesn't take away from the flow of the film but at some points gets quite distracting especially on the wide shots. On the other hand, the close-ups tend to be perfectly clear. There's a certain amount of scratches and flecks too which are quite minor.

The sound:
The sound is 2.0 DD and seems to have little in way of stereo effects but mono is probably enough for this type of film.

The menus

The bare-bones type - silent and motionless - but they do their job.

The Extras:
We get a few production notes and actor's bios and there's also a 2 minute-long network trailer. Added to this there's also 3 other trailers for other DVDs in the "true stories" series...

Given the low RRP of £7.99 for this DVD, I'm not sure if one can really expect much more from it than what it gives us... The transfer is poor in parts but the film itself is of an acceptable standard for US network dramatisation so it's really up to each person's taste whether this is worth buying or not...

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