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With: Elliot Ruiz, Yasmine Hanani, Andrew McLaren, Matthew Knoll, Thomas Hennessy, Vernon Gaines, Danny Martinez, Joe Chacon, Eric Mehalacopoulos, Jase Willette, Antonio Tostado, Tony Spencer, Nick Shakoour, Oliver Bytrus, Nathan DelaCruz, Nathan De La Cruz, Ali Adill Al-kaanan Desher, Falah Abraheem Flayeh, Duraid A. Ghaieb
Written by: Nick Broomfield, Marc Hoeferlin, Anna Telford
Directed by: Nick Broomfield
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Arabic, English, with English subtitles
Running Time: 97
Date: 11/09/2007

Battle for Haditha (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With his new Battle for Haditha, the controversial documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney, Biggie and Tupac) adds to the ever-growing list of Iraq films. But in order to document a specific incident, Broomfield abandons the documentary format and goes for docudrama, presumably so that he can fill in the unknown factors with his imagination. (It's like Brian De Palma's Redacted, but less personal.) In 2005, Iraqi insurgents bombed a U.S. convoy, killing one Marine and wounding others. Seeking vengeance, the other Marines immediately swept the entire area, killing 24 people including women and children. Broomfield presents three points of view, starting with the two bombers, whom he treats with a great deal more humanity than United 93 did. They're nervous and scared, and are astonished when their actions cause such a catastrophe, and they even question and regret their actions. (They're not monsters.) The second group consists of the innocent families that will be slaughtered; they're planning a party to celebrate the circumcision of a little boy. Broomfield shows us a loving Iraqi couple that treats each other with equal affection rather than the male-dominated relationship we usually see. Finally, we get the Marines, who are as vulgar and as violent as any other movie Marines, but led by the thoughtful Captain Ramirez (Elliot Ruiz), they also have a measure of humanity. Broomfield very effectively balances these storylines with superb cutting, including one devastating shot in which the bombers' truck stops just down the hill from the happy family's home. The massacre sequence is as brutal as anything in any other Iraq movie, and for the movie's coda, Broomfield isn't shy about whom to blame (the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of Defense). Ultimately, Battle for Haditha concludes that the war is a useless mistake and that vengeance is futile. Essentially, it's no different from any other Iraq movie, and, as with the others, very few people will see it. (It opens this week at San Francisco's Roxie Cinema.)

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