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Static Mass Emporium DVD Review

October 8, 2010

This Is War (2010) Review

By Patrick Samuel (Published Sunday, October 3rd, 2010)

As far as war movies go, I’ve never been a fan. The truth about war and its effects can never be summed up in a movie or used as entertainment. This Is War is something entirely different though. It IS war. Shot by First Lieutenant Mike Scotti during the invasion of Iraq, it embodies the reality as only soldiers before have experienced it.

Scotti, was deployed in Iraq in early 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom where he fought as a First Lieutenant with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment and commanded a detachment of Forward Observers. During the time there he not only managed to stay alive but also documented his entire experience. It wasn’t until his return to the United States when he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than someone suggested using his war footage as a way to deal with what he went through.

Then came the task of going through hundreds of hours of footage together with director Kristian Fraga and editing it into a story. The result is a startling, honest and traumatic journey with an extraordinary man. What we see is what keeps him together; the picture in his wallet of his school friend Beth Qulgly who was killed in the September 11th attacks. The image of her face reminds him of a time now lost; when they were children and didn’t know about what horrors there really were in the world. He also remembers wine and tiramisu and can’t wait to be back home and enjoying it again with his friends.

We also see the things which tear him apart. Things which would tear any of us apart, but he keeps going, putting it away for later because for now he has to fight to stay alive. As they make their way through Al Nasiryah to Al Kut they come under strong fire but a tragedy will have a profound effect on him for a long time. The reality of war is that sometimes innocent bystanders die and on this day a little girl travelling with her father in a car becomes one of them. As her father raises her from the seat of the shot-out car, her brain falls through her skull and onto the ground. With nothing anyone could do, Mike buries her pink slippers in the dirt by the roadside.

When the men reach Baghdad, rather than Saddam’s palace, it’s the site of what used to be the ancient city of Babylon, the cradle of civilisation, which he finds himself drawn to and thinking of Alexander the Great and the other nations who had tried to capture the city. While the Iraqis favoured them when they first entered, the growing hostility meant they no longer knew who to trust and he wonders if they really want them there at all. A local man walks past him and gestures he would like to slit his throat. They used to pose for pictures with the Iraqis during the day, but at night they never know if those same people were shooting at them. The smell of the dead haunts them and the men start to suffer from diseases as a result of the flies and sewage.

This Is War is much more than the war which rages on the ground or in the air over Iraq. It is an account of the beginning of a soldier’s own war inside and how he would later deal with these experiences. For his actions while under fire and for destroying enemy strong positions, Mike was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V”. He remained a Captain in the Marine corps until he was given an honourable discharge in 2007.

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