Hearts and Minds

Nick Broomfield, known for his unseemly documentary portraits of Aileen Wuornos, Heidi Fleiss, and Courtney Love, brings a surprising dose of compassion to his third dramatic feature, Battle for Haditha, an Iraqudrama that straddles the line between blistering exposé and Spielbergian heart-tugger. The film recounts the events of November 19, 2005: Following a roadside-bomb attack, U.S. Marines massacred 24 civilians in the town of Haditha. Broomfield cross-cuts between the soldiers, the insurgents, and the victims, building considerable suspense and sympathy for all involved. Corporal Ramirez (played with conviction by former U.S. Marine Elliot Ruiz) suffers from nightmares but learns that he can't receive mental-health care until after he leaves Iraq; the Al Qaeda recruits are regular guys next-door, happy to take $500 in cash and a gallon of gasoline in exchange for a tutorial in improvised explosive devices; the collateral damage is a beautiful extended family, including a cute kid who adores chickens. Veterans of Iraq War cinema might recognize familiar traits—the heavy-metal machismo of Gunner Palace, the confessional testimonials of The War Tapes, the cri de coeur of Stop-Loss—but when the shit finally hits the fan, the results are emotionally bruising.
May 16-22; May 23-29, 2008

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