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Laramie Movie Scope:
Gunner Palace

What really goes on in Iraq

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 17, 2005 -- “Gunner Palace” is a documentary about the war in Iraq told from the perspective of the soldiers doing the fighting and dying in that God-forsaken hunk of sand. The camera operators went on missions with the soldiers and shared the danger with them for a year in Iraq. We see the soldiers in fire fights, we see them on raids into Iraqi homes looking for weapons. We see Iraqis who are sometimes friends and other times enemies. We see true heroism, and we see people just goofing off and having a good time.

If you have friends or relatives who are serving in Iraq and you want to know what they are up to, this is the film for you. It doesn't take sides, although it is pretty clear where the filmmakers' stand on the war itself. It doesn't look at the “big picture” of the war, or the war on terrorism, or the situation in the Middle East, or the overall stability of Iraq itself. All it does is show what these soldiers are doing and what they think about their situation on the front lines.

The soldiers are about what you would expect. They are young people who are not very well educated about Iraq, militant Islamics, the Palestinian mess, or how the war on terrorism relates to Israel. They are strangers in a very strange and dangerous land. Among them there are as many opinions about the role of the U.S. military in Iraq as there are soldiers. Many of them express their views through music, particularly rap music. The soldiers in the documentary are stationed in a partially-destroyed palace built by former dictator Saddam Hussein, hence the film's name. They sometimes relax in the lavish pool, in stark contrast to their barracks-like living quarters within the palace.

These young soldiers are not very saavy about the overall situation in the Middle East as it relates to the rest of the world, but they are very media saavy. They know that for the audience watching this movie, these men are just temporary entertainment. We'll lose interest in them very quickly. For them, it is life and death, and a long, tough existence in a largely hostile country. Knowing this, these soldiers are remarkably generous with their time. They are open and they give of themselves. Even though they don't have to, they do entertainin us. One soldier even does a pretty good guitar rendition of Jimmi Hendrix's famed version of The Star Spangled Banner. They are a credit to their country. I felt a sense of loss for every one of these soldiers who died in Iraq. These are good people, and they will be missed.

As for the war itself, I think it strengthens global terrorism rather than weakens it. Al-Qaeda set up operations in Iraq long after the U.S. invasion, and the country has become a magnet for militant Islamics. The U.S. invasion of Iraq has become the main recruiting impetus for Al-Qaeda. It has also greatly increased the money flowing into Al-Qaeda's coffers. Iraq has become the new training ground for terrorists, replacing Afghanistan. It is a place where terrorists can experiment with new tactics to use against U.S. forces using live targets. Those live targets include Iraqi civilians and the soldiers in this documentary. The Republican rhetoric is that by fighting this war, we won't have to fight terrorism inside the U.S. The truth is, we'll end up fighting terrorism in multiple locations inside and outside the U.S. precisely because of this war. Terrorists easily can and will operate in multiple locations around the world. I think it likely, as a result of the war in Iraq, that terrorists will explode a nuclear bomb or “dirty bomb” in a major U.S. city, possibly New York, in a year or less. More importantly, in the short term, the war has led to a huge increase in oil and gasoline prices and oil company profits.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, young American soldiers are fighting and dying in a very hostile environment. They're not fighting to protect our country. They are fighting to protect the world's oil supplies. Think well of them anyway. They're doing the best they can under the circumstances. They are representing the United States remarkably well, despite the disastrous foreign policy decisions of their government. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)