Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why we fight.

Managed to snag a ticket to this basically excellent doc last night. You can say it's about why we're in Iraq; a lot of the film is, but it really does try and get to the heart of the matter, as the title suggests. When it's on, the film is as beautiful and compelling as any doc I've seen. When it wanders, it's still pretty good, but fallible.

It opens with a genuinely amazing speech by Eisenhower, as he is about to end his presidency, in which he essentially warns against the perversion of democracy that a standing army and the attendant industries will wreak. This coming from a five star general who'd served in WWII. I wish they'd run the entire speech at the start of the film. Instead, we get excerpts, and then a standard talking-heads and footage piece. It sits halfway between a normal PBS story structure with several characters interwoven and something where the talking heads advance a thesis from start to finish..

What really got me was how *close* to being astonishing it was. As I said, many sections of it are beautiful -– it has a nice soundtrack that bridges a lot sections together into bigger pieces - then it would get bogged down a little with bites that were maybe not exactly off-topic, but maybe weren't bold enough. Much of the dialog is preaching to the choir, and so what frustrates me is to see the other elements get lost within the rote '“our politicians don'’t care'” soundbites. The good stuff by my reckoning includes: a great story of a NYC cop, a Vet himself, who lost a son in 9/11; a young guy signing up for the army;an army colonel (I think) who was in the Pentagon when it was struck and felt that she had to leave the armed service because of policy differences; and a woman scientist who works on bunker-buster bombs who turns out to have fled Saigon days before the fall, and who has deeply patriotic feeling for the US.

My gut tells me that if they'’d kept this a little more trim, a little more poetic, and maybe kept the run-time to 1:15 instead of 1:38, they'd have a film that was breathless, and left the audience stunned at the end, rather than feeling like they'’d seen a really great documentary. There were quite a few sections during the film that are that good, and so major hats off to the team.

I know docs aren'’t the same as news stories, and it'’s not a rule that you have to give equal time to opposing viewpoints, but I did feel like there might have been a useful way to contextualize the argument a bit better with regard to the conservative side of the fence. Not just hearing things to debunk them, but to broaden the scope.

I hope this film is a huge success; I'’ll be very curious to see what the numbers are when it opens outside of new york/la.

1 comment:

Kain said...

Well I guess I'm so late to the party I'm responding a year later, but I unfortunately wasted my time watching this film one Sunday afternoon on Starz and it's nothing more than a typical Hollywood liberal puff-piece frought with enough inaccuracies and holes to start a Krispy-Creme (with the content just as harmful to your health all hidden by the sugary sweetness of a well filmed and edited piece of propaganda). Besides the fact that the film starts off with someone insinuating that Bush said Saddam was behind 9/11 before the war started, you get other annoying factual problems like the "expert" who claims that the volunteer army of today is disproportionately poor and uneducated unlike the draft army of Vietnam. This bizarre claim by liberals has been debunked many times most recently by the Heritage Foundation (conservative thinktank) which actually gives a good statistical analysis that recruits before 9/11 were disproportionately middle class and after 9/11 disproportionately middle class as well as a little disproportionately upper class. Then of course you add in the usual liberal/progressive tripe of how the US has pretty much made the world a horrible place by interfering and otherwise funding rogue nations and brutal dictators (w/o of course putting the perspective of the Cold War in place). Apparently liberal/progressives no nothing about the art of war and that often times in order to win you ally with evil to beat a greater evil and then fight the lesser evil later down the road. It's one of those rules of war that kids learn playing real-time war games on the internet with each other but college Ph.D's seam to have a time grasping (just like they can't understand that fanatics like Hamas' definition of a truce is simply a buy of time to rearm and beat the enemy later down the road and not a true change in heart and desire for peace...something else you learn from the playbook of war that liberal/progressives seam to have never read). Anyway, this film will make all those touchy-feely liberals feel great in their ignorance even though it only takes a couple of hours using Google and Nexis to take the film apart. Do yourself a favor and watch and/or Tivo another film unless you are planning on ignoring the content of this film and focusing specificly on the film's construction which is fairly good.