Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

GUNNER PALACE
Directed & Edited by: Petra Epperlein & Michael Tucker.
Produced by: Petra Epperlein.
Director of Photography: Michael Tucker.
Music by: Robert Cimino.
Released by: Palm.
Country of Origin: USA. 85 min. Rated: PG-13.
DVD Features: Additional Scenes. Gunmen Freestyles. Trailer.

Produced by two filmmakers who were embedded with troops in Iraq, Gunner Palace is essentially a profile of the American soldier, and it largely lets the troops speak for themselves, be it through interviews, hip-hop freestyle, horseplay or battle communication. This is a film full of contradiction: of men and women, some as young as 17, charged with the protection of both America and Iraq; of combat troops housed in a palace, built for Saddam Husseinís first wife; of the soldiers' tremendous fear weighing against their pride.

Organized as a series of vignettes showing patrols, parties, raids, interviews, and interrogations, Gunner Palace offers a distinctly different perspective than any other news source. The only political issues worked in are those most relevant to the troops - two mentioned in passing are the suspension of college loan bills for active duty soldiers and the administration's commitment to modern body armor for every soldier. Gunner Palace also paints a varied picture of the Iraqis themselves, and they remain as enigmatic as they must seem to the soldiers who are assign to simultaneously fight and defend them.

Although the central focus of the film is celebrating the bravery of the servicemen and women, it doesn't shy away from showing a coffin being carried onto an aircraft. And that is perhaps the most important part of the film: humanizing the lives on the line in this conflict and making their loss a personal one.

DVD Extras: The 17 additional scenes are similar to those in the documentary. They are longer - less edited - than the main feature and can be both tedious and insightful. Three audio tracks featuring servicemen rapping over beats are both electronically produced and improvised by beat-boxing and drumming on what sounds like the hood of the nearest Hummer. While the rappers should be commended for their lyrics and delivery, these tracks leave something to be desired. The directors use a lot of snippets in the film, including some that are heard more than once and tire quickly with repetition. Tim Farnam
August 1, 2005

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