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on 30 October 2008
Before I begin my review I'm going to give you all my biases up front - I'm an American, I'm a Marine, and I served one tour in Anbar Province in 2007 with a rifle company. Many of my seniors served in the Haditha area and told many-a-tale about that awful place. Having gotten that out of the way, I really wanted to like this movie from the get-go. It obviously draws its inspiration from one of my favorite films, the Gillo Pontecorvo classic "The Battle For Algiers", where many of the characters (including the screenwriter) were insurgents in the conflict rather than professional actors. I've been pretty disgusted with the Iraq films and TV shows that have come out over the past few years. Shooting in the California desert with a bunch of Mexicans dressed up like Arabs is never going to cut the mustard. Iraq has its own look and feel, and the Iraqis have their own style, even compared to the rest of the Arab world.

So I was really excited when I read that "The Battle of Haditha" was shot in Jordan, which is about as close to Anbar as you can get without crossing the border, and used real Iraqis and former-US military personnel. I also liked that Broomfield let them ad-lib most of their lines, giving them a feel of authenticity that no scriptwriter ever can. Broomfield definitely sets standards that every subsequent Iraq film is going to have to live up to. I also liked the controversial topic - there's a reason counterinsurgencies are called "dirty wars" and the Iraqis definitely do an amazing job portraying the mixed loyalties and emotions of many Iraqis as they seek to make some sense out of what was - for many Sunnis - an occupation.

Unfortunately, the movie's portrayal of the Marine Corps runs into a brick wall that nearly sinks the whole picture. While I enjoyed Elliot Ruiz's haunted squad leader, none of the other characters looked or sounded like real Marines. In fact, many of them seemed to be acting out popular stereotypes of Marines based on recruiting commercials and "Full Metal Jacket" or "Jarhead", which is almost nothing like what they really are. With the exception of Ruiz, there was almost no character development among the Marines, no explanation of how an infantry unit operates (which is crucial to understanding why the Haditha killings played out the way they did). Broomfield also falls into the trap of using actors in their mid-to-late twenties to portray a bunch of kids fresh out of high school. One of the guys I went to Iraq with was born in 1989 and was 12 years old when 9/11 happened.

Speaking from my experience, the Marines in "The Battle of Haditha" look like a third-rate Iraqi Army unit fresh out of boot camp. They do not know how to: hold their weapons, conduct mounted or dismounted patrols, clear a room, tactically question Iraqis, maintain cover and concealment, return fire, or conduct a squad attack on the enemy. If such things don't concern you, then disregard what I've said, but this is a point of professional pride for me and I really wish Broomfield had been able to get a bunch of real grunts for his actors. When I tried to get my company to watch this as a training film, the other Marines honed right in on this problem and were worried that some of our new-joins would get the wrong impression of how to behave in a combat zone.

Maybe I'm the last person who should be reviewing this - maybe this film was made to explain what Iraq is like to people who have never been there. If that's your opinion, go see it. But it was not made for Iraq veterans. If that's what you want to see, I recommend the HBO "Generation Kill" series, which gets more of the technical details right.
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on 17 March 2008
From a director who is never afraid to tell it like it is comes a film which pulls no punches in showing us the war in Iraq is far from a simple case of the 'good' guys and the 'bad'. Motives are blurred and the true horror of the iraq war is vividly portrayed.
This is not an easy watch and I know there will be those who question it's intentions but 'Battle' is not an 'anti-war' film. We are presented with the fact that the soldiers as well as the terrorists are merely human and as such are prone to fear, anger, impukse and acts of horror. By carefully covering the events through three stories, Broomfield examines the events that led to the cause of the shootings as well as the after effects. A master at work, he goes to great detail to make it realistic. Whilst not reaching the gritiness of Paul Greengrass, there is no attempt to glamorise the events and the hand held camera work gets into the actors faces and places us at the centre of the events.
With great music and beautiful photography it is a harrowing but worthy pice of cinema which dares to tell it like it is.
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I love a good war film, but quite often they're a little bit - how shall I put it? - U!S!A! - HOOOOORAH!!!

This film suffered from the opposite problem. It was too anti-American. It was a good film but the way it portrayed the 'terrorist' to be, I just didn't believe. It almost made them out to be some sort of Angels, tormented by the deaths they caused. I really don't believe the events and deaths of fellow Iraqis really weighs that heavily on your average insurgents conscience - something this film would have you believe it does, much more so than on your average American soldiers. Again I just don't believe that to be true. I'm sure the majority of troops on the ground do not enjoy the innocent blood-shed at least, that surrounds them.

On the whole though the film does give a good idea of the complexities faced by everyone on the ground in Iraq (as if I'd really know such a thing, but you know what I mean) showing the views of US Marines, your average Iraqi and the so called 'terrorists'.

The film is tense and the battle scene in Haditha good - I just felt that overall the film tried to make too much of a statement and because of that, it lost some credibility and realism with me. I'd also liked to have seen the film resolve a bit more, with some sort of comment on what happened to the soldiers involved after the incident came to light. I haven't watched the extras yet, so maybe I'll find that out in there.

I did find the film quite shocking, which is rare for me and it makes for an uncomfortable watch in places, and overall it's a pretty good film. However, I prefer The Hurt Locker by far - a different kettle of fish all together, I know, but hey if you want to watch a war film, I'd suggest you watch that.

If this review was helpful to you at all please give it the thumbs up. Cheers.
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VINE VOICEon 24 April 2008
Based on true events, the Battle for Haditha brings to the screen the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians (allegedly murdered) by US Marines in Iraq a few years ago.

The film shows the build-up to the main event from both sides, but for me has a predominantly Iraqi angle. The marines are shown to be generally pumped up on adrenaline and therefore predisposed to aggression, which is what you would expect in a combat zone, but it does appear to limit the control they have over their actions.

The terrorists are thinly sketched (al-Qaeda is behind it all, that's about all you get), but the civilians caught in the middle are given enough character that you care for them, making the impending tragedy all the worse.

Ultimately, an American vehicle is destroyed by a roadside bomb, and the marines go on the rampage. The lack of command and control is frightening as generally anybody in the area not wearing a US uniform is gunned down. It's an uncomfortable and frightening thing to watch as the terrorists escape unscathed whilst the Iraqis living in the area have a terrible American revenge exacted upon them.

This is a movie that offers little hope. In one telling scene the terrorists are spotted by the locals burying the bomb in the road. They remark that if they tell the Americans, al-Qaeda will kill them. If they don't tell the Americans, the bomb will go off and the Americans will blame and punish them. Either way, they lose.

Whilst this is going on in the city, the local US general is sat in his air-conditioned bunker ordering air and artillery strikes on insurgent targets. At one point a man is blown to pieces because he is carrying a shovel as he walks along the road. It may be a scene purely intended for dramatic effect, but it is all too believable.

The film is well made, shot in a documentary style which is very effective. Performances are generally excellent by unknown actors (or ex-soldiers) and the whole is good to watch, however uncomfortable the subject matter may be. Perhaps Broomfield goes a little too far with the portrayal of the marines - the officers appear to be far too isolated to command effectively and a number of the soldiers come across as little more than animals. But I haven't been to Iraq, maybe it's realistic. I hope not, but I guess it's up to the viewer to decide.

By the end of Battle for Haditha, I could not sympathise with the Americans or the terrorists. The innocent people caught in the middle are those paying the price day in day out for the invasion and it's aftermath. This movie is only based on events and has undoubtedly taken a broad licence with the truth, but what is here is convincing enough to be a believable take on the day-to-day life in Iraq since the coalition saved the country from Saddam.

It's hard to watch, but if you have any interest in the ongoing conflict in Iraq, this is a must-see.
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on 30 November 2014
Really isn't worth your time. The acting is poor from the get go and as much as I tried to enjoy this, the acting just pales in comparison to other titles around this conflict (for example HBO's Generation Kill). As I said before, I really tried to enjoy this film (the scenes with the Iraqi civilians were actually the most enjoyable) I just couldn't.
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on 25 July 2015
Thought it was free with Amazon Prime, but when I clicked on "to view" I realised that I had to pay for it, won't do that again, however not that bothered as it was such a good film to watch, well worth the money.
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on 29 March 2015
Agonising; but also compelling. Certainly see it from the soldiers perspective. Empathically, this is viable. But seeing it from the victoms' viewpoint is altogether more terrifying. The film succeeds by presenting the tragedy in all its human complexity.
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on 9 October 2014
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but seriously my 40 years in military service , do I believe US troops enter combat as if they are in a movie , announcing they are on their way with "loud Music " blaring. UUUMMMM , one is given an objective ,you adapt improvise do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. This is a movie nothing more nothing less, and not particularly enjoyable one , so please do not form any opinions of our soldiers with this , I know lots already dislike our military because of their own inadequacies, usually after a fist fight on a Friday night , please do not make any more Movies portraying how you feel ,because of the size of your penis, instead concentrate on the actions of far better men than you in unusual circumstances > I know from personal experiences that most Anti war, anti soldier , etc. etc. would have soiled their underwear getting off the aircraft in an unknown land, let alone wear the bulls eye target symbol that is our uniform..
May your own God go with you, and sleep tight as the boys protect you
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on 5 August 2014
I didn't have high expectations for this film and knew nothing about the incident in Haditha. It surprised me. Well acted and shows how wars can easily get out of control and its often the innocent, non-combatants who become the casualties of war. The film also demonstrated how combatants can also become victims. Good film.
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on 19 June 2008
Some people may find it hard to believe the US forces do not behave in the way this film shows, I am not one of those people. This film shows the reality of what happens when proffesional judgement is clouded by emotion and the negativity of war itself. The film is a balanced account of an event in Haditha. People of the world took to the streets in protest against at the war led by the US and UK in Iraq and still they went in bombing a country back to the middle ages - shame on them. Not light entertainment.
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