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This Is War - Review

This Is War

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FANS OF recent Iraq war dramas such as Generation Kill and The Hurt Locker would do well to check out the documentary This Is War, a damn near essential companion piece.

A gruelling first-person account of life on the front line as seen through the eyes of US Marine, First Lieutenant Mike Scotti, as shot using a mini DV Camera, it’s an astonishing and uncompromising insight into the invasion of Iraq that’s brutal in both its depiction of life on the front line and its emotional.

Scotti went to Iraq determined to gain revenge for the 9/11 atrocity, in which he lost a close friend. He was also determined to remain honourable and do, as his commanders foretold, liberate the people of Iraq, while providing compelling proof to a sceptical world of the presence of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction).

En route, however, he finds his conscience severely tested as the harsh reality of life in Iraq bites.

Admittedly, some viewers may find the hand-held nature of the footage a little disorientating, while the American sense of bravado inherent in the early scenes smacks of a naivety that can only come with young, unseasoned fighters unprepared for the grim realities that lie ahead.

But that sense of camaraderie depicted in Hollywood war films is ever-present, as is the slow realisation that war is not all glamour and valor. Rather, it’s a complicated chaos that can often rest on split second decisions.

Scotti was decorated for saving lives upon returning from Iraq, including an incident where he prevented the loss of American lives in a friendly fire incident (not captured here), but he also had reasons to question his cause.

His outrage at the lack of WMDs is palpable, as is his disgust for some of the situations he finds himself in. A devastating discovery by checkpoint guards when they’re forced to take action to halt a speeding car is one chilling moment that stays with the viewer as much as it still haunts Scotti.

Throughout, however, Scotti and director Kristian Fraga (who edited the 60 hours of footage down to a tight 90 minutes) refuse to become political or take sides. Their mission is to present a soldier’s view of the frontline… which will stand a better test of time.

In that sense, This Is War is neither pro-military or anti it, but rather indicative and loyal to the bond that exists between the men asked to fight it. It also exposes the emotional cost of an experience such as this… where young men come back struggling to adapt to civilian life, often haunted by the things they have seen.

Like we said, This Is War is an exceptional documentary that emphatically puts you on the front line and makes you see the reality of combat from the perspective of the men fighting it. It really shouldn’t be missed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 92mins
UK DVD Release: October 4, 2010