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Gunner Palace - Preview & US reaction



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.

 

US reaction

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 politicians'.

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 news report'.

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."

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