Waco: The Rules of Engagement

This doc pulls no punches in its critique of the ATF and FBI, presenting both sides fairly.

You won’t like Koresh more.

But it’s very convincing and leaves you questioning the official narrative while seeing the cover-ups clearly.

And I give it the edge over “Waco: American Apocalpyse” on Netflix.

It’s currently the 12th best documentary in my List of Religious Cult Documentaries (I’ve ranked 14 of those so far!).

Trailer for “Waco: The Rules of Engagement”

Watch “Waco: The Rules of Engagement”

Release Date: September 19, 1997

You can stream Waco: The Rules of Engagement for free on YouTube here:

…or by clicking this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlN0kYoPHIU

You can also watch it for free on Kanopy (with library card) at https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/174222

You can also watch it on AppleTV, Amazon et al (for $2.99 to $3.99 last I checked). Check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/waco-the-rules-of-engagement


  • My Rating: 95/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 86/100 (Users); 88/100 (Critics)

Review of “Waco: The Rules of Engagement”

William Gazecki’s “Waco: The Rules of Engagement” takes you to a dusty Texas town in 1993.

That’s where the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound by federal agents happened.

It was a standoff that ended in tragedy.

David Koresh, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Branch Davidians, and his followers are holed up in their compound, Mount Carmel, just outside Waco, Texas.

On February 28, 1993, the ATF arrives to execute a search warrant for illegal weapons. The encounter turns deadly.

A gunfight breaks out. Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians are killed. The siege begins, capturing the nation’s attention.

Gazecki’s documentary doesn’t just show you what happened; it delves deep into the events. It questions the official narratives. Using a mix of archival footage, news clips, and interviews, he constructs a detailed timeline of the standoff.

The film scrutinizes the actions of the ATF and FBI. It especially examines the decision to use CS gas, a tear gas banned in warfare, on the compound.

One of the documentary’s most compelling aspects is its use of thermal imagery. Gazecki employs this technology to analyze the final assault on April 19, 1993.

The footage shows flashes that some experts, like Dr. Edward Allard, interpret as gunfire from the FBI. This contradicts the official story. This thermal footage is spine-chilling.

It suggests the FBI might have fired into the building, adding a layer of controversy and raising questions about the true nature of the final assault.

The human element is brought to the forefront through interviews with survivors and experts. David Thibodeau, a Branch Davidian who survived the fire, provides a haunting account of life inside the compound and the chaotic final hours. His testimony humanizes the Branch Davidians.

It portrays them as people rather than mere followers of a cult. Clive Doyle, another survivor, describes the desperate attempts to shield children from the gas. He recounts the frantic search for a way out as the compound burned.

The documentary also features voices from the law enforcement side. Former FBI negotiators and tactical commanders explain their actions, often with visible regret.

They discuss the intense pressure they were under. The challenges of negotiating with Koresh are highlighted. These interviews add depth to the narrative. They show the complexity of the situation and the difficulty in making split-second decisions during a high-stakes standoff.

Gazecki doesn’t shy away from controversial opinions. He questions the legality and morality of the government’s actions. The use of CS gas, which is particularly harmful to children, is scrutinized heavily. The documentary presents evidence suggesting that the FBI’s tactics were not only aggressive but possibly illegal.

One striking moment is the examination of the final assault’s aftermath. Gazecki shows the charred remains of the compound and the bodies of those who perished, including many children.

This stark imagery is a powerful indictment of the government’s handling of the siege. It makes viewers question the necessity and ethics of the operation.

The film also delves into the media’s role. Gazecki argues that sensationalized reporting and public pressure influenced the government’s decisions. News clips from the time show how the media framed the Branch Davidians as a dangerous cult.

This justified the government’s aggressive tactics. This exploration of media influence is a stark reminder of how public perception can shape policy and actions.

Gazecki’s pacing is methodical. It builds tension as the siege progresses. He takes you through the frustration of the negotiators, the fear and resolve of the Branch Davidians, and the mounting pressure on the government.

By the time the final assault begins, you’re on edge, knowing the tragic outcome yet gripped by the unfolding drama.

In the end, “Waco: The Rules of Engagement” is not just a recounting of historical events but a powerful critique of government overreach and a call for accountability. Gazecki’s meticulous approach ensures that the voices of those who lived through the siege are heard.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc