Sunday, 3 January 2010

Review: Battle for Haditha dir Nick Broomfield (2007)

I was pleasantly surprised that this fictionalised reconstruction of events that actually took place on 19 November 2005 was as good as it is. Comparisons with films like Blackhawk Down are inevitable, and Battle for Haditha survives them well.

The film uses the real events - when 24 Iraqi civilians were killed by Marines - and adds plenty to show how the insurgency works. It works, it seems, because of greed. At one point the older insurgent tells his young accomplice that, when he left the Iraqi army, he was paid $50. When the two arrive at the base of the 'foreigners' to pick up their improvised explosive device (IED), they get $500 immediately with the promise of another $500 if the attack is successful.

The older guy is an unemployed family man and the young guy works in an electronics store.

With the bomb in their truck, they pass through a US checkpoint and then get to work with picks and shovels, burying their deadly cargo. Neighbours see the work underway and complain among themselves - some even leave the area - but there is no thought of reporting it to authorities.

We get to know these neighbours, including a young woman and her husband. The woman will be one of the few to survive.

Corporal Ramirez (pic) is a two-term soldier who takes charge when the explosion goes off. He's been having bad dreams and resents the military for their treatment of him and his like.

Once the bomb has been planted, it is a waiting game. The two insurgents sit on an old couch on top of a nearby house with a gun, a video camera, and the mobile phone that will be used to detonate the IED. Finally, the convoy of Americans passes by on the right side of the road and they strike.

A soldier is killed instantly and others are wounded. Ramirez goes into action. Accompanied by a posse of Marines, he heads across the gulley by the road. They break down doors, shoot indiscriminately before asking any questions - there's no translator anyway - and set off grenades. It's a bloodbath.

The film shows how stress and desperation combine with money from overseas to destroy lives in Iraq. Talk of 'democracy' and 'freedom' that comes from the lips of some of the Marines at the beginning of the film sounds childish and uninformed. The movie has done its job well.

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