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Review: Gunner Palace

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Gunner Palace, a documentary I wasn’t expecting. This doc didn’t go left or right, it went to Iraq by telling the stories of the soldiers… well, it lets them tell the story, which was a twist. You get to see their evolution over a period of 2 months. And though the boys are funny as hell, you get the feeling they know exactly what’s going on.

The doc starts out at Gunner Palace, a bombed out palace that used to be party
central for Saddam’s two sons. They take the broken palace and turn it into
their base and also, their own little getaway to let off some steam, to drink
Snapple and to swim in the pool while listening to music.

At first the movie seems to show that they don’t have it too hard. One soldier is in a
floating tire chugging down Snapple (because they can’t have beer); one
soldier is this wannabe rapper and, while not knowing diddly about rap, I think
he was pretty good and the subject matter was far more interesting than the
usual rap lines of vengeance, pussy and ego inflation. He rapped about what he
was going through which compared to rapping about a tricked-out ride, seemed
much more profound. There’s also a female soldier that’s just having a hoot
because the locals have never seen a woman in uniform. We also meet a soldier,
about 18, just out of hick-town Middle America that on his time off plays First
Person Shooter games on his laptop. And despite my personal hate for all the
wrong reasons this war is even going on, I get attached to these poor guys,
having to go out and do their thing. They’re mostly kids, to young and stupid to
be there and yet they make the best of it. But they should be at home getting
drunk and laid on week-ends. Not occupying a foreign country.

But soon enough, funtime is over, we get to the nitty-gritty of occupying, which
is patrolling, disarming EDIs (basically explosives left on roadsides), getting
stoned by locals and nightly raids on civilians suspected of being part of the
insurgency (which just sickens me, because seeing small children being led at
gun-point outside at 3 in the morning, that’s just not right and these kids will

remember this and the end results in a few years won’t be good… but I’m sure
Junior will have won his war on terror by then right ?)

Eventually these soldiers also start to wise up to how the US was unprepared to
send them to war. Especially when the upgrades are installed to armour the
hummers. Basically just extra platting. And like one of the privates said,
instead of having shrapnel cutting you into pieces, the platting will slow it
down just enough so the shrapnel stays inside your body. So yeah the US
administration sends these boys to the slaughter with un-armoured vehicles and
ammo that has to be purchased by their families. This war is wrong on so many
levels, but once again I digress.

When the doc ends, you kind of feel good about the soldiers and you want to
support them and all, but when they list the body count of the soldiers from the
doc that were killed, reality comes crashing back in.

The doc deserved to be more developed but having the soldiers have their say was
great. It’s beautifully shot for a wartime doc and with all the rapping and
electric guitar playing, not much score is needed but it’s there. This doc was
well done but I feel that the director, Michael Tucker didn’t know what side of
the dialogue he fell in. Being a vet himself, he of course can’t bring himself
to make it an anti-war doc, but he goes there anyway, just too lightly. When you
make a documentary about wartime and there’s no blood and guts, no carnage,
something was obviously censored out. I know that the US Admin doesn’t approve
of showing hurt or downed soldiers because he "sends the wrong message" but it
hides the truth, that war is UGLY, BLOODY and without any justification.

Gunner Palace guns for a middle of the road 3 outta 5

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About David Desjardins

  • From what I’ve read, nothing was censored in the sense that anybody told the filmmakers not to include certain things in the documentary. The goal of the filmmakers was to present a side of the war that isn’t often seen, and as you said, it doesn’t lean to the right or left. It couldn’t do that if it contained any of the things you lament not seeing.