Gunner Palace

Buy this DVD at Amazon.com

Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Bryant Davis
Devon Dixon
Javorn Drummond
Elliot Lovett
Nick Moncrieff
Richmond Shaw
Terry Taylor
Stuart Wilf
The Soldiers of 2/3 FA

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes

Three “Gunner Freestyle” audio rap tracks

Weblinks

U.S. Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 87 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

“Gunner Palace reveals the complex realities of the situation in Iraq not seen on the nightly news. Told first-hand by our troops, ‘Gunner Palace’ presents a thought provoking portrait of a dangerous and chaotic war that is personal, highly emotional, sometimes disturbing, surprisingly amusing … and thoroughly fascinating.

Filmmaker Michael Tucker, who lived with 2/3 Field Artillery, a.k.a. “The Gunners” for two months, captures the lives and humanity of these soldiers whose barracks are the bombed-out pleasure palace of Uday Hussein (nicknamed Gunner Palace), situated in the heart of the most volatile section of Baghdad. With total access to all operations and activities, Tucker’s insider footage provides a rare look at the day-to-day lives of these soldiers on the ground — whether swimming in Uday’s pool and playing golf on his putting green or executing raids on suspected terrorists, enduring roadside bombs, mortar attacks, RPGs and snipers.”

Gunner Palace is rated PG-13 on appeal for strong language throughout, violent situations and some drug references.

The Movie:
Gunner Palace is essentially COPS in Iraq. A documentary crew follows around troops as they patrol the streets of Baghdad and police the Iraqi people. You see them deal with demonstrations, inspect potential roadside bombs, raid houses, arrest snipers, and more. But Gunner Palace goes a little deeper than COPS because it follows them back to their base and records their thoughts, feelings, and extracurricular activities when they go off duty.

Every documentary has an agenda no matter how even handed they try to be and Gunner Palace seems to be no different. It seems to be very pro-soldier and anti-war. (Or at least anti-Iraq war.) There are numerous comments about the lack of support from home, the lack of a clear goal, the uselessness of people dying there, the lack of armor, etc. Gunner Palace is very clear about wanting to bring the soldiers home. While delivering this message, though, the documentary seems to generally be very supportive of the soldiers. The documentary records them singing, joking, helping Iraqi orphans, talking with children on the street, etc etc etc. Gunner Palace shows that our troops have a real capacity to help people.

That being said, there are many clips in the documentary that aren’t terribly flattering. You see soldiers acting like perverts, soldiers mocking Iraqis, numerous profanity filled “freestyles”, and more. You see soldiers busting into homes of terrified Iraqis, soldiers cussing out innocent bystanders, and soldiers arresting Iraqis who were once their interpreters or informants. Some of the troops come across as kind of dense, too. A lot of time is also spent on the fact that the troops occupy a luxurious palace. There are numerous shots of them swimming in pools and playing golf while the Iraqis live in squalor (forget the fact that the palace is the most practical place for the troops to stay). For all I know this may be an accurate and balanced picture of life there, but I do know that it doesn’t necessarily help the perception of US troops.

I was eager to see Gunner Palace because I wanted a real insiders view of what was going on there. I wanted to see what the news broadcasts weren’t showing and get a first hand account of what was going on. But as I watched the documentary, I became more and more frustrated because I realized I couldn’t tell what the real story was and what was simply the product of clever editing by the filmmakers. I guess I’ll never know until I go there myself. I will say that one of my co-workers was in Iraq during the heat of the war helping the US Forces secure oil refineries and pipelines. He stayed in several of these bombed out palaces and dealt with many Iraqis in the cities and in the country. Based on his fascinating stories, I know that Gunner Palace only touches on a small part of what’s going on over there. I’ll also add that I’m not a fan of rap of freestyle rap, so the constant profanity filled freestyle, no matter how genuine, was a bit much for me to take over the course of this movie.

The Extras:
The only two significant bonus features are the deleted scenes and the extended freestyles. I’ve already expressed my negative opinions of the freestyles, so we’ll move on. As for the deleted scenes, there are about 14 of them, all varying in length. There is more footage from the orphanage, more training of the Iraqi soldiers, and more scenes of patrols. But more interesting to me was footage of one soldier, Stuart Wilf, after he returns home from his tour of duty. He discusses the reactions from his friends about the war, his personal thoughts, and more.

The Bottom Line:
If you like documentaries or are fascinated by stories of soldiers and war, then Gunner Palace is worth checking out. It portrays a war more different than soldiers have ever had to face. The politics can certainly taint things at times, but it is certainly a unique perspective on these current events.

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