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shootandrun Written by shootandrun
Oct. 4, 2006 | 10:47 PM

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Review by Chris Hume

Deborah Scranton?s The War Tapes is an intimate and visceral trip into the landscape of war. There are no seasoned camera operators. There is no crew.  There is no safety net. Instead, three soldiers are given three cameras, and they film their tour of duty over the course of a year: in the most dangerous part of the most dangerous country in the world.

Scranton allows the story to be told by the characters themselves, breaking down the wall that usually exists between the audience and the film. From deployment, to combat, to homecoming? we are in their boots.

The soldiers are Sgt. Steve Pink, Sgt. Zack Brazzi, and Specialist Michael Moriarty. They are from the New Hampshire National Guard. Although there is no political bent to this film, they each bring their own visions, fears, hopes and uncertainties. We travel back and forth from their base in the Iraqi desert, to their waiting families, back in small town New England.

It weaves like a diary, as they often turn the camera on themselves, pondering the battle scarred world around them. Their observations range from cynical to comical, to cautious idealism.

?It?ll be a better country, in twenty years,  because we were there? I hope.? says a barely optimistic Sgt. Pink.

Almost 1000 hours of video tape were shot, and it was distilled down to a 97 minute movie. And it?s a beautifully sculpted 97 minutes.

The battle scenes are especially disturbing. The chaotic handheld camerawork isn?t an artful decision, like Saving Private Ryan. Real bullets are flying by, and real mortars are landing all around. A traffic jam on a boobytrapped Baghdad highway has more suspense than any Hollywood thriller.

But the ghastly is complimented by the absurd. The company is assigned to guard a truck full of cheesecake. The sewage tanker makes its routine ?pickup? at the base. And we dine at the mess hall, where Halliburton charges the U.S. government 28 dollars for each styrofoam plate.

Because there is no outside ?filmmaker? intruding upon these soldiers? lives, we get shamelessly candid interviews, and access to places that would have been totally off limits to a civilian.

A trip to the combat vehicle graveyard gives a chilling new perspective on the scope of this conflict. Row after row of charred Humvees and scorched American tanks stand in for the countless dead.

A year in Iraq leaves these three soldiers changed, haunted. It takes a steady hand to steer a film like this without losing political balance.  Deborah Scranton has done just that.

So if you?re an armchair liberal, or a kneejerk conservative, with a bunch of ideological baggage, leave it at the door. When you see this film, see it as if you knew nothing of the ongoing war in Iraq and how we got there. Wipe your slate clean, and let the soldiers take you on this journey. If you want it any more real…then go enlist.


  1. THE WAR TAPES: Review by Chris Hume Wednesday, October 4th, 2006 Deborah Scranton’s The War Tapes is an intimate and visceral trip into the landscape of war. There are no seasoned camera operators. There is no crew. There is no…

    Posted by on 10/05 at 09:52 PM
  2. good write-up, CH.  I can’t believe the Army allowed this to happen.

    Posted by Gordon S. Miller on 10/11 at 05:23 PM
  3. I really enjoyed this movie. The experience these young men had in Iraq is one that I would never want to have first hand. Their courage and willingness to fight for their country is unprecedented. If you enjoyed this film, you should see “Iraq For Sale”.

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    Posted by frankb344 on 03/24 at 12:57 PM