‘Desert One’ Film Review Examines Operation Eagle Claw

Desert One
A scene from ‘Desert One’ (Photo Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment)

Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s latest project, Desert One, examines and delves into one of the greatest American political and military failures in history, Operation Eagle Claw. “The mission was very plain and simple, bring home 52 American hostages,” states Major William G. Boykin of Delta Force who was involved in the failed attempt to rescue the 52 Americans being held hostage in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution.

Originally made for the History channel, Kopple’s film begins with the start of the Iranian Revolution and the Ayatollah coming into power after the exit of the hated Shah. With new interviews from some of the hostages and Iran militia students, Desert One brings back into focus the siege of the American Embassy and the hatred Iran had toward America at the time.

The film then switches its focus onto the 1980 Delta Force mission set up to try to rescue the hostages. New interviews with some of the men who went on the mission, President Jimmy Carter and his staff, and legendary newsman Ted Kopple help the film lay out and reveal all the flaws, missteps, and mistakes that led up to and resulted in the mission’s terrible and deadly failure.

Using never-before-heard recordings of phone conversations between President Carter and the Commander of Delta Force, as well as classic archived news footage, Desert One is an intriguing, dramatic, but not very enlightening documentary which breaks down everything wrong with the handling of the hostage crisis by the Carter Presidency and the military, from the early decision to explore only a diplomatic solution to the restrictions put upon the military during the rescue attempt. Desert One also reveals, using animation, what went wrong with the helicopters used during the mission as well as the questionable decisions made by some of the military personnel involved.

It’s unfortunate that Desert One – even with the new interviews and recordings – doesn’t bring to the screen any new insight or facts that haven’t already been uncovered and explored by other filmmakers and historians. There’s really not much additional meat to the story added with this 2020 documentary.


Release Date: August 21, 2020

Running Time: 107 minutes

Studio: Greenwich Entertainment