NAIL BOMBER: MANHUNT IS AVAILABLE NOW ON NETFLIX
On the 30th of April 1999, at around 5.30 pm, a man walked into the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho and ordered a glass of coke. In his possession was a bag, a bag that he proceeded to leave on the floor as he asked a customer for the location of a nearby cash machine. As the young man strolled out of the small pub, pushing past those enjoying the start of a bank holiday weekend, the bag sat unattended. At 6.30 pm, the bag exploded, killing three people and injuring dozens more—many of the injuries life-changing. This was the third nail bomb to strike at the heart of London’s minority communities and the most deadly.
To this day, The Admiral Duncan bombing remains the UK’s worst terrorist attack directed against the gay community. Many blamed the Police for failing to prevent it, while others pointed to a police force that cared little for minority communities. But, what is the truth behind the nail bomber? And can the new Netflix documentary Nail Bomber: Manhunt provide fresh insight into the case?
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First, let me clarify, I have no intention of naming the man who committed these acts in this review. He deserves no attention, no comment and none of my words. Second, as with many crime documentaries, the victims and communities targeted should take centre stage. But does Netflix achieve this? The answer to that question is yes and no.
Documentary filmmaker Daniel Vernon does an outstanding job highlighting London’s diversity, vibrant energy, and multicultural joy. His interviews with those affected by the first bomb in Brixton Market, the second in Electric Avenue and the third and most deadly in Soho highlight the power and strength inherent in London’s diverse communities. Equally, his exploration of the fascist extremism sitting under the political party known as the BNP is assured and fascinating. Here, an informer who infiltrated the BNP and the fascist movement behind it provides insight into the workings, political face and destruction it brought. However, these significant political and social issues also feel constrained, with little space for debate and exploration in a confined runtime.
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The critical questions of intersectionality left hanging highlight this lack of space. After all, we know that fascists despise any group different from themselves—their political beliefs and hatred transcending labels of race, sexuality, disability and religion. As a result, the essential discussions on nationalism raised deserved more time and space. Therefore, in many ways, Vernon’s documentary feels incomplete, despite its urgent subject matter. His lens focused on history rather than how the events of 1999 continue to echo throughout our modern society.
However, despite these flaws, Nail Bomber: Manhunt does reexamine the police investigation into the terror attacks. While at the same time diving into the challenges of police undercover work in extremist groups. But, most importantly, the surviving victims of the 1999 bombings are finally given a long-overdue voice.