Preview by: Jack Foley
THE American military has taken a bashing from the media and
film-makers in recent times for the way in which it has conducted
itself in Iraq.
Michael Moore claimed to have shown the first footage of US troops
torturing Iraqi residents in his documentary, Fahrenheit
9/11, while the ever-present camera crews of CNN and co are
always quick to point out examples of American failings.
Yet while certain actions cannot be condoned no matter what you
might think of the war itself, the more discerning should realise
that not every soldier should be tarred with the same brush.
Another new documentary to focus on the war in Iraq might just
go some way towards doing that if the US critical reaction to
Michael Tucker's Gunner Palace is anything to go by.
Filmed four months after President Bush declared the end of 'major
combat' operations in Iraq, the documentary follows the American
soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery, AKA the 'Gunners', as they
continued to endure what they jokingly call 'minor combat'.
Their barracks are the bombed out pleasure palace of Sadaam
Hussein's son - located right in the heart of the most volatile
section of Baghdad.
The film has been granted total access to all unit operations
and activities, thereby providing an inside look at the war not
seen on the nightly news.
Gunner Palace is therefore described as 'a chaotic, surprising,
real and sometimes amusing look inside the Iraq war as experienced
and told first hand by our troops'.
And the word from America has been very positive since it opened
on Friday, March 4, 2005.
Leading the fanfare of acclaim was Entertainment Weekly,
which wrote that 'the vision of force, hardware, and a touch of
bluster camouflaging a state of high anxiety is a perfect summation
of the US presence in Iraq'.
While Variety noted that the 'docu offers up
its sounds and images bluntly, and they are very much sounds and
images worth having as part of the record'.
Village Voice opined that 'Gunner Palace has
a raw home video quality that's often quite beautiful. Much of
the movie is hardly more than an immersion in sights and sounds'.
While the New York Times described it as 'a
welcome antidote to the self-convinced rhetoric of pundits and
And the Washington Post referred to it as 'a
video diary about staying alive during an ill-defined, unconventionally
dangerous tour of duty'.
Impressed, too, was Newsday, which remarked
that 'at times, the film's evocation of war's absurdities invokes
memories of Robert Altman's M*A*S*H'.
While Rolling Stone found it to be 'a riveting
and indispensable record of the war in Iraq because it comes from
the men who lived it'.
And Box Office Magazine declared that 'showing
a frank and unfiltered view of US soldiers in Iraq, this distinctive
documentary has an authenticity and impact far above the typical
The Hollywood Report Card, meanwhile, pointed
out that 'they're young humans put in extraordinary circumstances
and this documents some of their internal struggles'.
And Slant Magazine wrote that 'Tucker does what
Michael Moore and FOX News are incapable of doing by illuminating
both sides of the truth'.
The final word, however, goes to the Miami Herald,
which poignantly observed: "In a simple, direct manner, Gunner
Palace reminds you that the thousands of faceless, nameless troops
in Iraq are still there after you switch off CNN."