Gunner Palace (2004)

(On DVD, August 2006) There really isn’t much to say about this film beyond the simple facts: It’s a documentary about a bunch of American soldiers (most of them young), stationed at what was Uday Hussein’s pleasure palace. The filmmakers behind the camera spent a year with the soldiers and filmed everything: Gunner Palace is best seen as a collage of life over there, without much in term of narrative structure or documentary development. As a demonstration of what life is like for the men out there, it’s unbeatable: War, from the trenches, is about boredom footnoted by death. Garbage bags that may explode. Allies that turn into enemies overnight. Living in the ruins of excess, trying to help people who would rather throw stones at you. I suspect that Gunner Palace is so close to its subject that it’s likely to be seen as a triumph regardless of one’s political affiliations. Alas, it’s already gaining in historical stature as, two years later, the situation over there hasn’t really improved… and thousands of Americans have come back in body bags. Ultimately, reviewing the film isn’t necessary, not when they (or people much like them) are out there, and we’re over here… not understanding what they’re going through.

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