Iraq, as seen through soldiers' eyes


March 05, 2006|By DAVID ZURAWIK

OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND / / Rumur Releasing / $24.98

This is the war in Iraq on the ground and in the dust. It's seen through the tedium and the green, night-vision lens of disorientation endemic to the grunt's-eye view. As chaotic as the landscape regularly appears, one message comes through loud and clear to the soldiers in the film: Most of the people of Iraq see them as occupiers, not liberators - and want them gone.

March 19 marks the third anniversary of President Bush announcing the start of the military campaign in Iraq. For all the footage of soldiers in combat that TV news has since shown, none has been as revealing as that which is included in this documentary scheduled for release Tuesday.

Filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds chronicle the daily grit and grind of a platoon of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division patrolling the soon-to-be-devastated city of Fallujah in the winter of 2004: "This is the story of seven guys picked to live together in a cabana in Fallujah, Iraq," Sgt. Chris Corcione says sarcastically in the film, mimicking the opening of MTV's The Real World.

The worldview of these soldiers is steeped in such irony and cynicism about the purgatory in which they have landed. Dark humor and the endless use of a certain four-letter word dominate their chatter, both on and off patrol.

The photography is knockout. An eerie, otherworldly texture is established through long mood shots of sun-baked vistas juxtaposed with an overload of menacing night-time imagery colored by the surreal, video-game glow of night-vision gear. When the soldiers do encounter Iraqi civilians, the camera always shoots them close-up and eye-to-eye from the point of view of the GIs. The resentment - and, yes, sometimes outright hatred - jumps off the screen.

"This is Fallujah," one angry teenage boy says, putting his face up against the camera lens. "Be careful of Fallujah. ... We are angry men."

Special features

There are updates on the lives of each of the soldiers in the platoon since the winter of 2004. Several soldiers who swore they would get out as soon as their tours ended are still in the military - training others for combat. There is also gripping footage of the final assault on Fallujah in November 2005, by the Marines. Stunning in its ferocity, the American attack left much of the city in ruins.



Based on the 2003 non-fiction work by ex- Marine Anthony Swofford, Jarhead (a term of self-definition used by Marines) follows a young sniper from boot camp to the battlefields of the Middle East. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), the film stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx.


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