Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story

Garrett Scott | 56 minutes. Subdivision Productions.

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


We’ll never know exactly why U.S. Army veteran and unemployed plumber Shawn Nelson decided to drive a stolen tank through the residential streets of Clairmont, California, in 1995, tearing through parked cars as though they were paper. His grand plan to make a public statement on the steps of City Hall was derailed by an unsuccessful excursion across a freeway median (even 60- ton tanks aren’ t unstoppable, evidently) and a well-aimed policeman’s bullet.

What we do have is this incisive documentary, which portrays Nelson as the crystal meth-addicted son of a bomber manufacturer in a defense-industry town that hit hard times after the Cold War ended — and never quite bounced back. That this is a “war story,” as the provocative subtitle puts it, is made clear through the film’s brilliantly deployed footage of pilots dropping Clairmont-made bombs on Pacific targets during World War II; of Clairmont’s postwar rise as a military boomtown; and of Nelson’s half-hour rampage itself, wherein the disgruntled veteran broke into a National Guard armory to start up his own private war. Despite the central ambiguity of Nelson’s mission, Cul de Sac makes its subject’s dead end — his treacherous path from military training to the point of no return — appear disturbingly well marked.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate