Director Nick Broomfield, better known for his confrontational nonfiction exposés (BIGGIE & TUPAC, KURT & COURTNEY), turns his attention to fictional filmmaking with this documentary-like recreation of one of the many tragedies spawned by America's presence in Iraq. On November 19, 2005, a convoy of U.S. Marines was targeted by insurgents, resulting in the death of one of their soldiers. In retaliation, they went on a senseless rampage, slaughtering two dozen Iraqis, including many women and children. Though accounts vary as to what did, in fact, happen, it is clear that Broomfield didn't make BATTLE FOR HADITHA as another angry rant against the American government. His ultimate purpose is more universal. He wants to show viewers the ugliness of war by placing them inside one particularly horrific situation, witnessing it from every angle. There are the innocent victims who are struggling to exist in a war zone that torments them on a daily basis. There are the insurgents themselves, including those who used to work legitimately in the government but who have begun to act lawlessly in order to preserve their dignity. Lastly, there are the American soldiers, who tend to get portrayed as senseless killers in war pictures like this. But in BATTLE FOR HADITHA, Broomfield doesn't take the easy way out and present two-dimensional clichés of war-movie bad guys. This is most evident with regard to Corporal Ramirez (Elliot Ruiz), who is battling stress and depression but can't get the help he desperately needs from his government. In a cast of nonprofessionals, Ruiz is an outright revelation, providing the film with an unexpected amount of heart and soul. BATTLE FOR HADITHA proves that Nick Broomfield doesn't always have to make his presence known to create a powerful, disturbing work.
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