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Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Is War (Severe Clear- 2009)

Ever since Apocalypse Now shattered ever known fibre of the war genre in1979, war movies have tended to portray war in a negative light. Gone were the days of war heroes standing tall for their country and destroying the foreign enemy that were out to take all that was good with their homes. Granted, the sheer fuck-up that was the Vietnam War played the biggest part in this cinematic shift and its affects are still felt to this day. Films like The Longest Day, where huge actors played good-hearted solders, were soon replaced by the younger, more violent, and certainly more prone to rape, breed of solder as seen in films like Casualties of War and Platoon.

This Is War however, offers us a mixture of both the old and the new with the added twist of being a documentary... of sorts. Here we have real soldiers fighting in real situations. They are violent young men hyped-up on government spin believing they are fighting the good fight. They are simply doing what is ordered of them. It’s an attitude so rife in Hollywood war movies of old; they are fighting to protect family and friends from those evil foreigners who threaten their homes. Yet they enjoy the slaughter and destruction of their enemy with an uncomfortable, disturbing glee.

Mike Scotti joined the army after a classmate was killed during the 9/11 attacks on New York. He was called up for the invasion of Iraq and shot hours and hours of footage; from the mundane routine and boredom of the road leading to the invasion, on to the paranoia and fear that mounted as they began their mission and the inevitable bloodshed that ensued. It’s a disturbing experience being this close to war, but it’s what also gives the film its power. Some scenes will be too graphic for some viewers, one scene in particular is incredibly hard to watch, but for those with a strong stomach this will be required viewing.

Where is fits in with modern war films that followed in the wake of Apocalypse Now is in its honesty. We see what shitty equipment these people have to rely on to defend themselves and each other. We see the disorder of the missions; no one seems to understand what they have to do, except find weapons of mass destruction that simply do not turn up. It also comes across undoubtedly, and this is where it fits in with the Hollywood mythic, is that these men love their country, that’s why they are there and it’s why they fight. Yet as time goes on and they become numb to the destruction lays an addiction to the chaos and their bond as marines. It’s been said that war is the ultimate drug, and this certainly proves that a lot of these men do become addicted to combat, not just for the rush of risking their lives; but for the need to protect those around them: To be needed.

This Is War is an in your-face experience that ranks as one of the finest example of war cinema since Gunners Palace. It’s disturbing, troubling and oddly entertaining to see these men have so much fun in such a hellish environment, believing they’re doing the right thing, even though their belief slowly starts to fade away from them as time goes on. It’s this honesty and sincerity that makes it such compulsive viewing. Highly recommended.

This Is War is available to buy on DVD from October 4th from Momentum Pictures.

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