Review: Gunner Palace (2004)

In Gunner Palace, director Michael Tucker spent two months filming the American soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery, a.k.a “the Gunners”, documenting their lives in Iraq from the end of 2003 into 2004 (roughly four months after the war was declared over). The Gunners reside in what was once Uday Hussein’s pleasure palace. Tucker skillfully combines comments by Donald Rumsfeld, humorous stories told by the soldiers, shocking and gritty images of the war, and the freestyle raps by the soldiers to create a chilling, must-see documentary.

This documentary, foremost, gives the American soldiers perspective on the war and, I feel, that during this time, we often forget or never even knew their opinion on the war. This film is important to at least appreciate and understand their stance on the war. As viewers, we follow the soldiers on nightly raids and we see the strain the soldiers go through when training Iraqi troops, locating IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and dealing with Iraqis who just want the American troops to leave.

While it does not give the Iraqi perspective on the war, aside from informants hired by the American military and the occasional shot of a possible insurgent, the atmosphere is gritty, brutal, and hellish. Most of all, this film shows how real the Iraq war is, something that the news doesn’t and can’t show us. And it cannot not be ignored because it comes from the men and women who have lived through this war.

As one soldier describes towards the ends of Gunner Palace: “When you sit on your couch and you watch the TV, and you go to your 9 to 5 job and you complain about the pizza being late … there’s no way you’re gonna know how to live here. Someone being sympathetic to this? I don’t know if I’d be sympathetic if I wasn’t in the army. After you watch this, you’re gonna go get your popcorn out of the microwave and talk about what I said, and you’ll forget me by the end of this. Only people who remember this is us.”

Updated October 8, 2010

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