Gunner Palace *** 1/2 (out of four)
For anyone who wants a realistic feel for the war in Iraq, "Gunner Palace" is the movie to see. The film consists of video clips from the year that filmmaker Michael Tucker spent with 400 soldiers (of the 2/3 Field Artillery) based in a bombed-out Baghdad party palace once owned by Saddam Hussein. The film may not be the smoothest or most forward-moving but the point of the directors, to give the viewers a clear glimpse what they saw, is effectively done.
The movie bounces from scene to scene in a rhythm that is as random and real as life. It not only highlights stereotypical events of war such as "minor" combat in the streets and house raids for suspected insurgents,but also films the routines and banalities of living daily in a war zone: soldiers chase a rat in their bedroom, block traffic in response to a suspicious plastic bag in the road, pick up a glue-sniffing child while on street patrol, go to an orphanage, relax in the palace pool, and joke around with each other at the compound.
A surprising amount of footage focuses on the soldiers when they are not on duty; reminding us that the film is not so much about the war, but about the men. In the online journal by Michael Tucker he comments "with each trip to Baghdad my opinions have become dulled -- it's all become personal -- During the last year,if anything, I've learned that the war isn't what most of us think it is: it has nothing to do with what most of us know and it's definitely not what you see on the news." There is frequent footage of the young guitar-playing soldier Stuart Wilf, a very interesting character, and of several gifted freestyle rapping soldiers. Their music and lyrics on life as a soldier play as background throughout the movie as do director voiceovers and news clips from U.S. media and politicians.
Combined, all of these elements help convey the complex realities of war and give us a much clearer view of what the war is from the people who live it 2 4/7 .
For more information on the movie, to view trailers,or to read the online journal "Baghdad Diaries"compiled by directors Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, visit www.gunnerpalace.com
Christine Martinez is a senior at Clarence High School.