Documentarian Nick Broomfield's third fictional feature is a forensic cinema verité-style account of a real-life massacre in Iraq, when US marines gunned down 24 Iraqi civilians in cold blood
One of a current crop of films taking on the issues surrounding the US-led occupation of Iraq, Nick Broomfield's largely successful re-enactment of a massacre of Iraqi civilians by US soldiers explores the events from multiple perspectives. Shot in the naturalistic style seen in his Ghosts, and Paul Greengrass's Bloody Sunday and United 93, the film brings the audience close to life on the ground in this troubled country.
The three strands of the story follow three groups of individuals caught up in the tragic events - a pair of insurgents who plant a roadside bomb, the US Marines who seek revenge after the bomb kills one of their number, and the innocents who ultimately pay the price.
The film shares close parallels with Brian De Palma's Redacted, which investigates the real-life rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the massacre of her family. De Palma's outrage prompted him to paint a starker, more simplistic piece of agit-prop, whereas Broomfield is more subtle in his presentation.
He is concerned with showing the nuances and ambiguities of ideology and occupation in a number of illustrative scenes - an Iraqi shopkeeper jokes with US soldiers about the DVDs he supplies them with only to then collect a bomb that kills one of them; the bomber's collaborator condemns the fundamentalist killing of an English teacher as the work of 'idiots' and is then later rebuked for drinking alcohol by the men who provide the bomb.
And although Broomfield does not shy away from the monstrous brutality of the US troops, he endeavours to show the way in which both ordinary Iraqis and the Marines are pawns in an ideological war that is played out over their heads. Their experiences and reactions are shaped by this sense of powerlessness. The US soldiers are dehumanised by fear and by the hatred of the Iraqis towards them; the Iraqi civilians are brutalised by their American occupiers and manipulated by the insurgents.