Video Vault: the War Tapes
The War Tapes
2006: Deborah Scranton
NR: 97 minutes
Vault Rating: 7.5
Today’s feature might be the fairest account yet of what it is to serve in Iraq. Culled from harrowing and heartfelt footage taken by three New Hampshire Army National Guardsmen, it is a personal, stark, shocking and even-handed revelation.
The film has no agenda. It offers no answers or opinions other than those of our unique videographers. It does not judge or take sides as it focuses on the slow stress of the ground truth in a confusing conflict.
Given cameras before deployment in 2004, Sgt. Zack Bazzi, Sgt. Steve Pink and Spc. Mike Moriarity elected to document their experiences just as the resistance in Iraq was intensifying. The soldiers themselves are as complex as the war they fight in.
Bazzi, a Lebanese immigrant who speaks fluent Arabic and who gained his U.S. citizenship upon returning, loves being a soldier even though he questions its legitimacy. In war, he often finds himself in the role of interpreter and provides an interesting two-sided mirror on the war. He leaves behind a mother who struggles to understand why her son chose the military after enduring the hardships of war as a child.
Moriarity expresses deep support for the war, having joined to exact some payback for 9/11. Still, he comes to hate his time in-country and we get the impression his experiences have subtly affected his opinion.
A better correspondent could not have been found than Pink. He is a born writer and expresses himself in fluid prose. He is vivid, strident and sensitive. He suggests that the war had better be about oil and about money for U.S. interests.
These soldiers mounted their mini-cams on their helmets or gun turrets on patrol and the real tension of fire-fights and roadside bombs comes graphically to life. These sequences, not for the squeamish, are counterweight to scenes of the slow grind of every day soldier life as well as stateside interviews before and after their tours of duty.
In all, the viewer, having ridden silent witness on their shoulders, gains a real affinity for the soldiers. Vault could not help noting a palpable difference in them as they decompress after their service, struggling to keep their lives together and trying to gain equilibrium with the women in their lives.
This all goes to the simple fact that war leaves an undeniable mark on all who endure it. It is a reality that those of us who have risked nothing can never really understand.
We’re sure that the film industry will commence churning out quality Iraq war films in a few years in the same way that WWII and Vietnam films came in and out of vogue after the dust settled from those conflicts. We in the Vault feel that none of them stand much of a chance of getting closer to the mark than “The War Tapes” does. It is strong, recommended viewing.