War documentaries simply don't get much more realistic or gritty. This is the real deal. US Marine Lt Mike Scotti used his personal mini DV-camera to film his experiences during Operation Iraqui freedom in 2002. The camera does not spare us close up shots of bloody and mutilated corpses. We even watch one man run from a burning bus only to seek shelter in a shed where he is killed by heavy Marine fire. There is no hiding place from Scotti's invasive camera. Be warned this is very disturbing for those of a sensitive disposition. Perhaps most disturbing of all was the 'collateral damage' to the civilian population, a tragic feature of all wars. The death of a young girl in all its gory detail graphically illustrates this. Scotti also captures the cameraderie of Marine life, and the colourful language so beloved by young soldiers of every nation.
Perhaps saddest of all was some of the soldiers attitudes at that time. Scotti makes no secret of the fact that revenge for 9/11 is a motivating factor for many of the men. One particular scene still haunts me when the soldiers witness artillery raising an Iraqui city to the ground, they say "F**k em, let em burn. This is payback". It is soon clear that Saddam's ragtag army is incapable of putting up any meaningful resistence against such military might. It is also interesting to see how attitudes have changed in light of the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. This knowledge would certainly have made a difference to the soldiers attitude. At the end of the film Scotti talks about this briefly, to set the record straight. The film simply shows us war through the soldiers eye, in the same way that the documentary "Restrepo" also did recently, but in this case in a more visceral manner. It is like a film, but with real blood. As one of the soldiers says "It's like training, but with real targets". If this is the future of war films then I begin to fear for the future. What will we be getting in twenty years? On returning from Iraq Scotti gave 60 hours of film to director Kristian Fraga, who has tidied it up and trimmed it down to the hour and a half. The film achieves its stated aim and shows us what we may have known all along. War is indeed, uncertainty, chaos and disorder. There is no doubting that this is compelling film making, but it is also darkly disturbing. If I have used the word disturbing too often, I make no apologies!