One of the primary ways in which Anglo-American film-makers have responded critically to the ‘war on terror’ and its spectacular hyper-mediation is through a proliferation of documentary films and television programmes, and documentary/fiction hybrids. Through a close analysis of two docudramas, Redacted (Brian de Palma, 2007), and A Mighty Heart (Michael Winterbottom, 2007), this paper asks why this turn towards a documentary aesthetic has taken place, and how effective it is as a political response to current events. The paper also examines the stylistic and thematic characteristics of these self-reflexive docudramas in order to identify the key features of this aesthetic shift. The narratives of these two films centre on jihadist videos showing the beheading of an American kidnap victim. Such videos constitute a documentary sub-genre that has become a fetishised symbol of the ongoing conflict and the mediated forms it has taken. Through a discussion of the different ways in which the two films treat this inflammatory material, the paper explores the ethical and political challenges faced by film-makers attempting to produce affective, critical cinematic accounts of the ongoing conflict.