2019 TIFF Movie Review: DESERT ONE (USA 2019) ***1/2

Desert One Poster
Using new archival sources and unprecedented access, master documentarian Barbara Kopple reveals the story behind one of the most daring rescues in modern US history: a secret mission to free hostages of the 1979 Iranian revolution.


Barbara Kopple

In 1976, director Barbara Kopple made the Oscar Winner HARLAN COUNTY, USA about unionization of coal miners which is one of the most moving documentaries ever made.  DESERT ONE is the named of the failed operation endorsed by then President Jimmy Carter to rescue the American hostages held in the American Embassy in Iran under control by Ayatollah Khomeini. 

Khomeini would release the hostages only if the U.S. return the Shah which the U.S. refused.  In the accident during the execution of DESERT STORM several soldiers lost their lives and the rescue aborted.  

The film pays tribute to the dead soldiers.  Director Kopple recognizes that women are just as important as men are the unsung heroes themselves.  She organizes the pick of the interviews for the wives of the deceased as she did centring on the wives of the coal miners, many widows after mining accidents in HARLAN COUNTY U.S.A.  

Kopple also has a heart for Jimmy Carter who graces the film with lots of screen time.  A moving film that demands to be seen.