Gunner Palace
2005
Get inside the heads of our troops in Iraq via this engrossing portrait. Director Michael Tucker lived with 2/3 Field Artillery ("The Gunners") for two months and captured the humanity of these soldiers, whose barracks in the most volatile section of Baghdad are the ransacked pleasure palace of Uday Hussein. Tucker's footage provides a rare look at the lives of these soldiers, whether they're swimming in Uday's pool or raiding terrorist lairs.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

The daily experience of an American GI stationed in Iraq, measured by the futility he feels when policing a city that doesn't care whether he's sent home dead or alive so long as he leaves, is an important thing for stateside Americans to understand. But surely it deserves a more probing film that this, which merely captures the daily lives of select soldiers with precious little insight or commentary. The film is a shapeless mass of chronologically-ordered footage, as the soldiers patrol and patrol and patrol some more in what plays very much like a two-hour episode of "Cops: Baghdad," but rarely does it ask hard questions about what it feels like to fight a war that some of them think is unjustified, and rarely does it probe the effects of the occupation on Iraqis (for better and for worse). Most of its expression comes when the soldiers show off how much they've been practicing their rapping skills, but there's way more than enough; if the amateur rap in this movie were released a soundtrack, it would need two discs at minimum. A tighter focus in the editing room, as part of a larger philosophy of making a fucking point, might have whipped this footage into something better, something these soldiers deserve for the hard jobs they do.

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