Thursday, January 22, 2009

Battle for Haditha

Battle for Haditha succeeds in telling the story from both sides of the conflict. Without pointing the blame entirely on the Marines responsible for the massacre or the resistance fighters who triggered their response, director Nick Broomfield and co-writer Marc Hoeferlin sensitively investigate the Haditha incident where 24 civilians were murdered in retaliation for a roadside bomb.

The acting is candid and affectively voyeuristic at times, and Broomfield recreates the battered town with meticulous precision. Yeah, there are some cliché parts. The soldiers are depicted as trigger-happy meatheads, blaring heavy metal as they race Humvees through the desert. They embarrass themselves, but usually for the sake of comic relief – to keep each other sane. Iraqi kids sit from a swing and comment on the lovely date palms and of course the family’s grandfather sits in the living room with his beloved Qur’an. All of this is normal.
But unlike any war movie I’ve seen, the civilians play a key role in the narrative. In a story like this, it would be difficult to exclude them. We see how families are caught in the crossfire between a fanatical extremists and the over equipped military who use everything in their arsenal to destroy them. Mothers are pressured to remain silent when someone is planting a bomb outside their home. Children peer out bedroom windows to see who’s firing into their neighbor’s house.

This is one of the most realistic war movies I’ve seen and definitely the only one that fully sympathizes with the disgraceful loss of civilian life. If you’re seeking a viewpoint from the people on the receiving end of the barrel, rent it. This is a perfect companion to Generation Kill.

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