Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
Knowing I had just seen his new documentary, “Top Priority: The Terror Within,” producer BJ Davis asked me what I had thought of the film. I summed my review up in one word.
Much has been made of the state of the world since the horror of September 11, 2001. As citizens we’ve been told to keep our eyes open…to report anything we may think is suspicious. But what if you worked for the U.S. Government’s Department of Homeland Security and you discovered that no less than 23 “Special Interest Aliens” (read: persons from such countries as Iraq, Libya, Indonesia and others) just walked across the Mexican border into the United States. You’d notify your superiors, right? Apparently not if you want to keep your job.
The central figure in this film is Julia Davis. Born in Kiev, Russia she met and fell in love with American filmmaker BJ Davis while he was making a movie in her country. Emigrating to the USA and armed with Masters Degrees in Aviation and Spacecraft Engineering, she soon found herself working for the Department of Homeland Security as a Customs and Border Patrol Officer. So strong was her knowledge of, and commitment to, the job that she would often appear on national news programs as an anti-terrorist expert to field questions. In an average month, approximately 10-15 “Special Interest Aliens” would be given authorization to enter the USA, usually after a lengthy question and answer session with a DHS agent. While checking her daily work Davis discovered that, in a 10 hour period on July 4, 2004, 23 “Special Interested Aliens” entered the US without so much as one question by anyone in authority. When Davis reported this horrific breach of security all hell broke loose. On her.
It’s often hard to judge a politically themed documentary. Sometimes, as in the case of some of Michael Moore’s work, the information given is slanted. I’m not saying it’s wrong…I’m just saying that sometimes you don’t see all that is to be seen. That is not the case here. Pressing on with her complaint, Davis soon finds herself the target of harassment at work as well as having to deal with fifty-four fraudulent charges leveled at her. Each one of these charges is proven false thanks to an unprecedented glimpse at government video depositions as well as video surveillance tapes. In one instance, Ms. Davis reports that her superior, Linda Boutwell (who Ms. Davis’ attorney humorously refers to as “Miss BUTT-well” when he discusses her) picked up her personal backpack and threw it to the floor so forcefully that the cell phone inside was broken. Boutwell submits a sworn statement claiming to have never touched Ms. Davis’ backpack. When government investigators are confronted by video surveillance tape that shows Boutwell doing exactly what she is charged with, they inexplicably side with her. The case gets even more involving when Boutwell tells her superiors that Davis, while at work for the Department of Homeland Security, is secretly helping her husband and his crew make a local film. According to Boutwell she is told this information by actress Brittany Murphy. When the Davis’ inquire as to why these charges were made, Murphy informs them that, though she is friends with Boutwell’s daughter, she never made those statements. What follows for the next 18 months is an all out assault on the very freedoms Ms. Davis swore to protect. She is followed by helicopters…her house is illegally searched…the government tries to have her deported, calling her marriage to BJ a sham. They even arrange to have local police pull the Davis’ over at pre-scheduled times to prevent them from arriving at court hearings and depositions on time.
Surprising to hear? It was to me. But every accusation is backed up with proof! There is no gray area here. It’s all there in the black and white video footage as well as the notes and documents the Davis’ were able to track down. And they weren’t the only people under surveillance. In an interview shortly before she died at the age of 30, Brittany Murphy told the writer she knew she being watched. In fact, it was much worse. Murphy endured helicopter surveillance, wiretaps, an arrest in the middle of the night and an unsuccessful attempt to deport her fiancée Simon Monjack, whom she later married. That shortly after her statement both Murphy and Monjack suddenly died only makes the case more bizarre!
There are more twists and turns to this film then all of the rides at Disneyland. “Top Priority: The Terror Within” is a film that will make you think and, hopefully, say “Wow!”