American Bomber (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 6, 2013 by  


Eric Trenkamp’s “American Bomber” is a fascinating, fictional indie film that explores domestic terrorism and how a normal person would could be responsible for a heinous act on American soil.    A film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2013 INDIEPIX. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: American Bomber


DURATION: 90 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo



RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2013

Written and Directed by Eric Trenkamp

Produced by Michael C. Freeland, Eric Trenkamp

Associate Producer: Sean Donnelly

Music by Zach Abramson

Cinematography by Eric Trenkamp

Edited by Eric Trenkamp


Michael C. Freeland as John Hidell

Rebekah Nelson as Amy Rile

Brian Floyd as David Miles

Pamela Tate as Lee Hidell

Kenny Wade Marshall as Barry Aaron Speller

John Hidell, a disgraced ex-soldier, travels to New York City to become the first American born and raised suicide bomber. As he prepares for his bombing, he finds himself in an unexpected relationship with Amy, a divorced bartender. As his infatuation with her and New York grows, Hidell neglects his role in the bombing plot and begins to hope for the future. A hope that shatters when his co-conspirators and the FBI come hunting for him. With time running out, he must choose between a life on the run or a death in the history books.

In September 2011, John William Hidell, a former soldier from Kentucky, killed 114 people including himself, becoming the first American born suicide bomber.

This is the subject of filmmaker Eric Trenkamp’s indie film “American Bomber”, a film about how an American born soldier can become a domestic terrorist and the dangerous possibilities that people can do this on American soil.

The film was released on DVD in Nov. 2013 courtesy IndiePix Films and created on a small budget in a period of a little over two years, the film was screened not long after the Boston Marathon bombings and if anything, as we learn more details from heinous acts created by the individuals responsible for the bombings, people that knew those individuals in the past, were in disbelief how someone can change drastically over the years.

In “American Bomber”, the same can be said of the film’s main character, John Hidell.  A former soldier who joined the military after 9/11 to fight for America but instead, due to a fight against his superior officer, he was put into the brig and whoever he was in the brig with, has changed his perception (as well as others) of life and society.

Originally created as a short film and a documentary on John William Hidell’s act of targeting a building where Saudi Officials were staying and killing over a hundred people, the film would include scenes from Trenkamp’s 2011 short, but focus on Hidell’s bombing mission and not acting alone and working with possibly other soldiers who want revenge on political officials from the Middle East, “American Bomber” tries to show how Hidell was a normal person.

Back in school, he was bullied, while his mother looked at him as an angel despite not having a fatherly figure in his life.  His fellow soldiers who served time with him talk about the memories they have of Hidell, but also interview those who stayed in the brig with Hidell and one man’s perspective towards humanity.

Aside from the documentary interviews post-bombing, the film features John William Hidell (portrayed by Michael C. Freeland) as a man knowing he has a mission and doing his rounds of observing various areas to detonate a bomb but also working with others who also want the privilege of becoming a martyr.

And as Hidell ventures around the New York area, he meets Amy Rile (portrayed by Rebekah Nelson), a bartender that he has eventually becomes romantic with.  But John must choose, a life of happiness to be with the woman he just fell in love with but knowing he’s the most wanted man in America for the murder of a soldier or to continue his mission and detonate a bomb on American soil.


“American Bomber” is presented in 1:78:1 aspect ratio and in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

I’m not going to be too critical with the film as it is an indie film shot with a small budget, a film that was shot in a period of over two years and took volunteers who came into lend their skills to the film for a short amount of time but not were available on certain scenes.  But for how this skeleton crew were able to utilize with whatever crew and equipment they had at that given time, I feel that Eric Trenkamp and crew were able to do a good job.

This is guerrilla filmmaking and trying to record footage in areas that were probably restricted and just doing all you can.  And for the most part, the crew did a good job with most of their shots, intentional and unintentional and I respect that!

Picture quality is good as what one can expect on DVD, dialogue and music is clear through the front channels.


“American Bomber” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by writer/director Eric Trenkamp, actors Rebekah Nelson and Michael C. Freeland and cinematographer Sean Donnelly
  • Short Film: “American Bomber – The John William Hidell Story” – (22:13) Featuring the documentary-only portion that was featured in the film.
  • Q&A– (10:31) Post-screening Q&A at St. Francis College in New York City on May, 17, 2013 with writer/director Eric Trenkamp, actors Rebekah Nelson, Michael C. Freeland and Kenny Wade Marshall and domestic terrorism expert Dr. Michael Kaune.
  • Outtakes Reel – (2:32) “American Bomber” Outtakes
  • Teaser Trailer – (:48) Teaser trailer for “American Bomber”.
  • Trailer – (1:26) Theatrical trailer for “American Bomber”.

“American Bomber” is a film that is relevant and a topic that is often discussed in society.

From the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, the Twin Tower attacks of 2001 and the Boston Marathon attacks of 2013, plus the growing number of gun-related tragedies at schools, it’s not something that people can escape from. It’s part of society as we hear it on the news and we see these things now commonplace on the news.

In the past, we have seen bombings used by terrorists as a way to further their mission or to send out a message to America but as we are seeing more and more tragedies caused by Americans, what would happen if America were to produce a suicide bomber and how would a normal individual become that way.

From the Oklahoma City Bombings to Boston Marathon bombings, those who were responsible for their crimes have been depicted by old family and friends as kind individuals.  People who were somewhat brainwashed or something must have clicked in their head to make them so evil.

With “American Bomber”, we have a former soldier named John Hidell who is on his final mission, working with former soldiers to accomplish what they haven’t done before and that is to send out a message to those of the Middle East and also America that they are in society.  Wanting to become a martyr for his cause and is prepared to kill a lot of people with his bomb.

The thing is, Hidell meets a woman that he falls in love with and he wants to spend time with her that it eventually makes him neglect his role in the bombing plot.

While the film is already predictable as we know that Hidell’s character was the suicide bomber who died at the beginning of the film, “American Bomber” is more of a journey of how a normal man can create a heinous act. Was he a man full of hate?  Was he a man born of evil?  Or was he born evil and eventually ended up with a group that brainwashed him?

While there are certain areas of his life can make him a hateful man, interviews with family or those who knew him point to a man who would do anything to fight for his country. And this is where this film becomes rather fascinating, because did Hidell go down as one of the most heinous man in history for his suicide bombing?  Or is he considered a hero?

And why would he be a hero?  As there are people who see those who were involved in the Columbine shootings hailed as a hero by certain individuals who committed similar copycat crimes, we have seen stories for example in the big budget film “White House Down”, where the terrorists were American soldiers and people of the government who were unhappy of America’s pull-out from the Middle East.  In that film, there are people who try to justify taking over the White House as a form of revenge against the government, and there were obvious supporters who believed in that cause as seen in that film.

And that is the frightful notion of this film that anyone normal can end up becoming a murderer and like suicide bombers in other countries, they are fighting for their own agenda, their own ideological belief.

While in cinema, we have seen epic films based on those who fight for their ideology and beliefs, may it be on films based on actual events such as Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film “The Battle of Algiers” as Algerians in North Africa took part in bombing campaigns  against civilians in order to drive out the French from their homeland. Or Koji Wakamatsu’s “United Red Army” that is based on the true story of college students in Japan who orchestrated kidnappings and hijackings in Japan during the ’70s, normal college students who became terrorists.

“American Bomber” is a film like in real life does not present a clear cut solution or reason of why a person can commit a heinous crime.  And in the case of the fictional character John Hidell, it is no doubt a combination of situations that made him do what he did but in the end, he and other soldiers had an ideology that looked down towards society or created a warped belief that these people will become infamous or legendary for their act of terrorism.

While a film about terrorism is the last film you want to see a romantic love story, what works for “American Bomber” is that the character of Amy Rile (portrayed by Rebeka Nelson) is somewhat of a bad ass.  She talks with a chip on her shoulder and she says whatever comes out of her mouth.  These two are attracted to each other and it’s enough for Hidell to pause and reconsider his mission.

So, “American Bomber” is an interesting film and if given a much larger budget, it would have been interesting to see how far Eric Trenkamp would have taken this film?

But the fact is that this is a small budget film that depended on guerrilla filmmaking and that is to film in locations whether or not they receive approval or not.

And what I did enjoy about this film after learning more about the creation of the film is how it was a labor of love for over two years.  People who tried to lend their skills to help benefit the film, those who used their own homes to shoot and just shooting with the simplest budget but getting the job done as best they can.

The crew faced a wide variety of challenges during the making of this film but in the end, the crew did a good job of making this film come to life.  Sure, acting may be spotty for some individuals at times.  And with a bigger budget, I’m sure it would have improved a variety of scenes in the film.  But Eric Trenkamp, cast and crew did a good job with their film.

The audio commentary was enjoyable to listen to and hear the challenges that they faced in filming various scenes and how people contributed to the making of the film, which was inspiring!  The Q&A was also interesting to watch and the complete short film “American Bomber: The John William Hidell Story” is also included on the DVD.

Overall, Eric Trenkamp’s “American Bomber” is a fascinating, fictional indie film that explores domestic terrorism and how a normal person would could be responsible for a heinous act on American soil.    A film worth watching!



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