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ACMI Re/commends: Waco

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Waco is a deeply disturbing account of a painfully avoidable tragedy. Based on a true story, the series is a compelling, nuanced and cutting exploration of the violent 51-day standoff between the FBI, ATF, and Branch Davidians cult in Waco, Texas. The infamous tragedy is revitalised for a contemporary audience through an exploration of character perspectives from both inside and outside the cult compound. While there is certainly a focus on the problematic dysfunctions of the cult, the series mostly offers an empathetic representation of the Branch Davidians that allows the group a rarely afforded sense of humanity.

Taylor Kitsch leads as a wiry and magnetic David Koresh, complete with aviator glasses and shaggy mullet. Koresh’s unwavering, narcissistic belief in his role as a prophet of God is infuriating and a true credit to Kitsch’s performance. Stepping out of brother Macaulay’s shadow, Rory Culkin impresses with his quietly foreboding depiction of David Thibodeau, a new and not entirely convinced member of the cult. Michael Shannon plays Gary Noesner, lead FBI hostage negotiator. Noesner is one of the most interesting characters in Waco, acting as the sympathetic voice of reason in a colossally mismanaged situation. His frustration and desperation radiate off the screen.

Waco bares the trauma of the 1993 tragedy in all its visceral shock. While the series offers several perspectives of the Waco stand-off and its resulting deaths, at its conclusion the series is clear about who harbours the blame. Ultimately, culpability doesn’t lie with any one person but with all those in power who were stubborn, egotistic, and unwilling to budge in a battle of egos. At its core, Waco is a warning about the dangers of unbalanced and volatile power, making for sharp, haunting, and relevant television. 

By Summer Gooding, staff writer


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