Bad war, good film

Pub date May 13, 2008
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

REVIEW Okay, here’s another Iraq War fictive feature people won’t go see, although this may be the first one where it would be a real shame (as opposed to the many very good documentaries everyone ought to have seen). It delivers sweeping, multicharacter, wide-canvas drama à la 2006’s Babel within a docudrama style that’s as convincing and effective as Brian DePalma’s thematically overlapping 2007 Redacted was — let’s put this delicately — phony, crass, and just plain shitty. A mix of professional and first-time actors (including actual Iraq vet and ex-Marine Elliot Ruiz as the platoon leader) play more disparate elements in post-Saddam society and the US military than we’re used to seeing. They converge on a reenactment of the November 2005 events in which an IED bombing of a Marine convoy triggered indiscriminate, retaliatory, home-invasion killings of two dozen local residents, including myriad women and children. (One point made is that many citizens get identified as insurgents simply because real ones have threatened families with death if they squeal.) There’s a long, ominous buildup in which we’re introduced to lives that will soon be traumatically shaken up — and then bleep hits the fan. Battle for Haditha is like a realpolitik version of a 1970s disaster movie, sans soap operatics, Charlton Heston, or idle pleasure in the spectacle of order collapsing. It’s tense, immediate, and vivid (if not quite so potently) in the way 2006’s United 93 was. A rare dramatic film from veteran documentarian Nick Broomfield, this film’s final outcry of grief, vengeance, and injustice is a terrifying illustration of how badly we’ve bungled — by creating new terrorists in attempting to eradicate established ones.

BATTLE FOR HADITHA opens Fri/16 at the Roxie. See Rep Clock for showtimes.