Gunner Palace (2004) Poster

(2004)

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8/10
Ultimately one-sided
Paul21 May 2005
This documentary is well worth seeing for one reason -- more than anything I've seen about the Iraq war, it gives the American soldier's point of view on fighting in Iraq. The news-bites and short glimpses of the war given the American public on television are filtered down so much by the time they get to your screen that you feel like you've seen nothing and gained no insight about what is really going on there. If you have a family member or friend fighting over there, you MUST see this film to better appreciate their perspective.

What this film does not do, however, is provide any sort of an Iraqi perspective on the fighting. Granted, there are interviews with Iraqi informants employed by the American military and and several shots of suspected insurgents being detained, but there is no attempt to show the average Iraqi's point of view about the conflict. In other words, this documentary is a very subjective and one-sided perspective, but it is still very worthwhile.

I went to see it with a friend whose brother is currently fighting over there, and she said it was remarkable how well it captured the soldiers' off-time activities and philosophies about the fighting. Her brother and his buddies had made some video footage of their own and it was very similar in that regard. What the documentary doesn't show, and what her brother's video did show, was the dismembered bodies, the hellish and disorienting firefights, and the horrified, screaming civilians. One should not go into a screening of this film believing that they will experience the war or see what it's really like. One has to be there to understand.
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9/10
Fair and balanced -- REALLY
beenit26 January 2005
The first thing I will say about this documentary is that regardless of your thoughts on the current war in Iraq (or the current influx of anti-war film propaganda), this is a movie you should see. The material is presented in a non-partisan manner, allowing for the audience to draw its own conclusions.

The film follows soldiers who call Gunner Palace home. Gunner Palace is one of Saddam's son's abandoned, bombed out, former residences. These soldiers are shown doing their duty on a daily basis, whether that means checking a carelessly tossed garbage bag to see if it's a possible explosive, or doing routine intelligence follow-up by raiding suspected bomb-makers' houses.

Some of the scenes are hard to watch, though the viewer is spared from any gratuitous violence or gore. There are scenes of soldiers spending time with local orphans and introducing them to the finer points of American pop culture, shots of suspected terrorists being brought in for interrogation and footage of local Iraqis being trained by (American) soldiers to defend their own homeland.

Most scenes are impactful simply for their ordinariness—the boredom and repetition that come from keeping the peace and trying to rebuild a nation who, for the most part, doesn't want your help. While the work can be intense, it is also slow and steady, done by many who are just out of high school and outside of their hometown for the first time in their lives.

One soldier makes the remark that though he had idealized army life more as defending his own country on its own land, he is still proud to be a solider, doing the necessary work.

What you don't see on the television news is the soldier's perspective. We all talk about educating ourselves on what is happening in Iraq to our men and women in service; well, here is your chance.
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5/10
Could Have Been So Much More........
kasserine11 March 2005
This documentary centers around an army unit that has made its base at one of Uday Hussein's "Pleasure" Palaces. Gunner Palace, essentially, traces the lives of the members of the unit from the point of view of Michael Tucker, a reporter embedded with the unit.

What works so well in this film is the simple fact that the viewer is getting to see the actual day to day activities of soldiers stationed in Iraq. It is fascinating and interesting, in this respect. What we are seeing is going on RIGHT NOW. It is unlikely the immediacy of Gunner Palace, and its impact, will be lost on anyone.

Unfortunately, aside from the main strength of the film, the video footage shot by Mr. Tucker, there seems to have been little thought in how to present the information. It is simply not edited well. It proceeds in a somewhat chronological order, but is hampered by an almost comical voice over, I assume done by Tucker, himself. It sounds odd and overly dramatic, even for some as dramatic as war. The narration just doesn't work.

The experiences of the soldiers themselves, are at times, very intriguing and include some amusing and often endearing raps performed by the soldiers about living in Iraq. It's clear that singing about the war, either with an electric guitar or a rap beat drummed out on a jeep is helping them get through the every day stresses they face. Presented more clearly and effectively, these raps could have given a nice structure to the film but seem more random and inserted without thought. And this is a shame, because there seems to have been a great deal of material the director could have drawn from. He was stationed there with them, for God's sake.

Also, somewhat inexplicably, the director/narrator, towards the end of the film, recounts his own experiences leaving Iraq and adjusting to home life again. Why I say this is inexplicable is because one would assume it would be the final moment of the documentary with maybe an epilogue, but rather the film shifts back to Iraq and continues on. It only adds confusion and disrupts the viewers ability to track the events and people appearing in Gunner Palace.

If only to see the faces of the soldiers and citizens in Iraq, as they are actually living, this film is worth seeing. It is a shame, however, that the footage Tucker shot didn't find it's way into more capable hands. Gunner Palace could have been even more compelling and affecting.
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9/10
Good, truthful documentary - a little heavy on the downer
tmcnabb1042 May 2005
Gunner Palace, a documentary by Michael Tucker that follows the U.S. Army's 2/3 Field Artillery for two months while the cope with occupation duty in Iraq. The title is a conflation of the nickname of the unit, The Gunners, and the fact that they have set up shop in a bombed out palace of Uday Hussein.

I can't find it on the web, but I read a bio that the filmmaker served in the mid to late 80s, roughly the same time I was in the Army. I've latched onto the fact (and I hope it is true) because it explains the tone of the film. When I walked out, I told Jim, who had seen it with me, that this guy wanted to make an anti-war movie, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it.

What we see is as much cinema verities we are likely to get in this politically radioactive conflict. Tucker lets the young troops pretty much be young troops for the camera. They all to some extent (and one in particular a great deal) mug for the camera and utter their doubts, concerns and reveal their conflicts. There don't appear to be many people above the age of thirty, though I find it hard to believe that an entire battalion would be so comprised.

We also see soldier show great restraint in difficult situations. In one scene, a drugged out, dirty and bedraggled street urchin is delivered to a place where he will hopefully find some sort of care. The GIs are careful, almost solicitous of the child, demonstrating a great deal of tenderness when considered in context of the fact that they are in a city where they are compelled to carry heavy weapons and wear body armor.

There is a lot of very scraggly video of nighttime raids. Bear in mind that field artillerymen are trained to shoot high-explosives over the horizon and wreck stuff, not tool around a foreign capital like cops. Again, these young men show tremendous restraint as they round up people suspected of manufacturing roadside bombs and lobbing mortars at their temporary home.

You feel a sense of futility at times as you watch, but a 60 day snapshot of a difficult mission is going to do that. Some of the soldiers make statements that could be found on you garden variety Bush = Hitler website, and it broke my heart. What they are doing is noble and necessary given the condition of the world, though a 20 year old would be hard pressed to put it into proper context. It is a shame for anyone over there doing their best to not feel their due honor.

If you rabidly feel one should speak-no-evil of the war while we are at war, Gunner Palace will irk you or worse. I found it to be sufficiently truthful and sincere to be a must-see. Pro-war and anti-war folk will find inspiration, which may mean it was done just about right.
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9/10
Good, albeit rather disturbing.
erihoney8128 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw a preview DVD when I was at National Guard annual training. It was after we had had classes that week on what to expect(ie, what to do in a convoy, rules of engagement, what an IED-improvised explosive device is likely to look like) if/when we go over to Iraq, so it was nice to see a "real" look at what is/was going on.

The part I really liked was the fact that it let the soldiers be who they really are. Kids, mainly under 25 and most under 21. Kids who joined for all sorts of reasons, but most who joined so they could do something that everyone dreams of. Going to college. It's hard to find something I didn't like, but the best/worst I can do is complain that the music should have been quieter so we could hear the soldiers more clearly, or had an on screen subtitle the whole time.

At one point one of the soldiers is asked if he still feels proud to be a soldier, and he thinks about it. "Sometimes, not often". So often when the soldiers are being interviewed they are hard pressed to look at the interviewer or the camera, instead looking off the side, or up at the sky, blinking hard to keep the tears back. I agree with the film-makers that it would be better off on TV. Personally, I believe that it should have been on TV less than a day after it was shot.

I think that it's an interesting watch, and I give it a hearty recommendation.

Here's to Gunner Palace, 2005. Do one that shows the war after it is "over".
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9/10
Best documentary on Iraq yet
Warning: Spoilers
This is the best doc to come out on the war yet. The mere fact the director lets the story come from the words of the soldiers sets it apart from *anything* that has come before it, and reminds me of what a terrible job reporters in television are doing at broadcasting the complexities of this war. I felt embarrassed after watching this, especially that I knew so little about the war (and I read a lot and assumed I knew a lot!). I saw GP at a sneak in Chicago at the beginning of this month (Feb 2005), and can tell you that it is the first film I have ever seen with a director present where no applause came after the film: it was that profound. After watching this, though, I am waiting for another film from Mr Tucker, a sort of companion film that is a follow-up on all the soldiers we meet. Well worth seeing several times. Get it at the theater if you can, because there is something morally powerful about sensing such closeness to the soldiers on camera.
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10/10
Gunner Palace a must see movie
topaz21-18 March 2005
I saw the movie in Toronto and again in Seattle. I have told so many people about this movie and the fact that it is multifaceted and encourages people from all walks of life, right or left to talk. The directors respect and honor the soldiers and have gone the extra mile to remind us not to forget about these men and women. The film does an amazing job showing us the real Iraq and the daily terror of waking up in a very scary place. I have encouraged my co-workers and friends to see this movie, to take time to read the diary on the gunnerpalace website and then sit down over coffee and discuss it. You won't be disappointed, you will laugh and you will cry.
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10/10
Excellent movie
sailingmagic9 March 2005
Remarkable movie.

It really makes you think and want to talk about your own perspectives on the war.

Coming from Seattle, it was particularly moving to hear the director talk about the death of Ben Colgan. He was a local boy and well loved.

This is the most honest representation of Iraq I've seen yet. It must be good since so many other directors are using a similar format in upcoming documentaries. To learn more about the making of the movie, check out the Apple computers website, and Gunner Palace website. I would encourage you to read Michael's diary about the making of the movie, his emails home to his wife and daughter, and the emails from the troops and their families. They are moving.

Great movie, makes you think.
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10/10
This is what really happens. I was there, I lived it too.
pulchrissima5 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
One year ago I was on a plane taking me to Baghdad. Not as a soldier, but as a civilian who was going to work in the presidential palace in the midst of the green zone. This documentary took me back there, I didn't know those boys, but those were the same personalities and issues that I dealt with. This is truly a must-see film. I was only there a short time, but I urge everyone to see this, no matter how you feel about the war that we are fighting. This shows the real stuff, not what you see on the news, this was impartial, this was about the soldiers. This film is also helping me to talk about what I did see and how my experiences were different. A lot of time, for me, was spent in conversations about what we were going to do when we got back to the states. It was surreal being there. You have to stop thinking about how scary it is. The mortars and RPG's going off at night start to sound like thunder and so you convince yourself that you aren't in danger, but that's just to stay sane. I hated having to answer the question "weren't you scared?" Of course I was, but you can't let it consume you and this film showed that side of the soldiers. They have to let loose sometime. Watch the humvees, and see how the frame changes from when the director was there the first time and when he went back months later...its then that you realize how different the situation was. I left right before it got out of control with kidnappings and be-headings, and I felt guilty. I felt guilty because I was back here safe and sound and my friends were still there. Don't let this be a film that you see once and forget about, this is real life and there are still soldiers living this film and they don't know the ending yet, none of us do.
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Something every person in the world should see.
amblnc38-123 March 2005
This movie through all its cursing, violence and drug references, this movie takes the "BS" out of the media's broadcasts and throws you straight into what little sense of "reality" one can get of war on the big screen. It leaves the politics behind and puts you straight in the middle of The Sandbox with the men and women who fight for this country. This movie will probably have you laughing your tail end off then in a somber silence in a matter of seconds. Political bias aside, Gunner Palace is something every citizen of the world needs to see, preferably before the next special report on what's "happening" in Iraq.

All this said, I personally walked away with a greater sense of pride in my country's soldiers, in the eyes of everyone of the speakers in this movie I saw those of my friends who have been there or who are there. This movie has moved me in a way which I shall not soon forget. The look of sheer terror and hope all on the same face has a profound effect on one's soul.
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Superb for what it is
dj_bassett29 March 2005
I ended up liking this quite a bit, although paradoxically the movie's greatest strength (an unwillingness to get wrapped up in the political arguments pro/con on the Iraq war, a willingness more or less to keep the vision down to the grunt's level) is also the movie's big weakness, as it often seems one or two steps removed from raw footage (in fact there's two false endings here, until finally the movie makers concede that they don't know how to end the thing....and then end it). The movie makers start the film suggesting this stuff should be on television and I agree; this really should be a very special "Primetime Live" or something.

That said, the footage is superb, the sense of a grunt's life very well evoked, with individual personalities nicely delineated. For what it is, essentially journalism in documentary film fancy-dress, it's very well done. The movie makers took some real risk; one only wishes more journalists would do the same. I also liked the melange of hip-hop, Islam, metal guitar, doper humor, Army briskness, pop culture references and the like that the film portrays: I have a pet theory that the twenty-first century will be characterized by the multi-cultural stew that GUNNER PALACE and the like portray. Worth checking out.
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10/10
A Must See
pjp152727 September 2004
This is one of the greatest documentaries ever made. It deals with the young men and women who are overseas in Iraq fighting the ongoing war on terrorism. It's not about violence, or hatred, or glory; just about truth. A lot of movies and documentaries give the impression of the director; this film lets the soldiers do the talking. It concentrates on the 2/3 Field Artillery Unit or the 1st Armored Division, stationed in Giessen, Germany, also known as the 'Gunners'. This unit spent close to a year an a half stationed in Iraq, most of which was spent living in Uday Hussein's palace, renamed Gunner Palace. It takes you through the daily life and routine of an American soldier fighting in Iraq. It deals not only with the military aspect of their days and nights, but also with their down time, and how soldiers cope with the realities of war. It's a very emotional documentary that shows what these good men and women serving our country are truly like. Keep tabs on this movie, when it comes out it's going to snowball into something huge. On a side note, the soundtrack was provided by the soldier's themselves; a majority of which is given through freestyle rap; a common way for many of the soldiers to express their inner most emotions. If a soundtrack accompanies the movie… it to will be a must buy.
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6/10
Informal, behind the scenes look at the modern American soldier
Thomas Gill18 January 2008
The first thing that struck me was that most of the American soldiers portrayed in this documentary apparently were small town guys, with little education and not as articulate as one would hope. They joined the military not out of patriotism, but for imagined adventure. It was the army or community college. I can sympathize with them and at the same time I can understand why the Iraqi people don't like them. They are crass, bullying and overbearing.But they also are willing to take tremendous risks and are sincere in their efforts to bring stability to a country thousands of miles from their own.

The entire Iraqi war seems to be a tragic, confusing mess and where it goes from here, no one really knows. The American soldiers, many just kids fresh out of high school, really want to put in their time and go home. But we know, even if they survive, they will never be the same again.
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10/10
Go see this film!
thepathwithheart20 March 2005
Gunner Palace is a unique film focusing on the war in Iraq and using new digital resources to produce an immediate unnerving front seat view. I have seen it two times and appreciate the discipline the filmmaker used to keep his political stance out of it. These soldiers are at risk doing their job at our government's request and we should hear them out. Their humor, music and camaraderie are what keeps them going and Tucker captures that. The frenetic pace and at times tense moments give the viewer a snapshot of what these young people lived through for over 400 days. It makes you mourn those lost like Ben Colgan. I hope this film gets folks talking and thinking about being more involved in war decisions that impact us for years. Go see this film.
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10/10
You won't be moved because...
yamfarmer20005 March 2005
...you won't be manipulated by a director who thinks he has to show us what CNN shows us because we ask to see things that move us to "feel" such as blood, and explosions, and human interest stories about a man with a wife and kids at home, or woman with a mother and father at home.

Well, Duh!!! Of course, all of these men and women, young and old, have families, or don't have families. They are human.

Don't spend another day walking around in your world without being in the Gunner's world.

IF YOU HAVE KIDS, YOU CAN TAKE THEM TO THIS ONE, and what I mean by that is...

There is not one drop of blood shown here. Yes, it is all real. You hear it. And you see it in their eyes, but the director has made a choice to instead show the tension/monotony/ bewilderment that surround the usual ready-made, gift-wrapped tidbits of firefights, explosions, and death.

Yes, the gunner's lost 4 of their brothers. And yes, there have been 1500 American sons and daughters lost. And in between it all, the military continues to live, work, and play. It's pretty damn hopeful if you ask me, to see a 19 year old kid, in the face of such horror and confusion, have such a good sense of humor. That's all they have is hope, because nothing else makes sense.

You will simply FEEL WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE THERE. Young men and women, who know they are alone. They fulfill their duty. They are proud. But they know that democracy cannot be created from the barrel of a gun.

They know that we will never know what war is really like. They know we will never remember them once we walk out of the theater. They know they are living the movie that we pay to watch.

P.S. - You will laugh a lot. And the soldiers rapping? If you've never related to rap music before, it's because it's never a told a story that mattered like this one.
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4/10
A documentary that is poor, that is not made by Michael Moore.
terrors8930 June 2005
Wow. A documentary not made by Michael Moor that still sucks. In this case the movie sucks because the direction is horrible, actually there is almost no direction. I like the content, but this is more of a home video then a documentary.

Gunner Palace is about a unit of soldiers living in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces during the war in Iraq. The movie shows day to day life while soldiers explain what is going on, sometimes in rap song, and sometimes in humor, and the dangers they face.

The interesting aspect of this movie is how it shows the soldiers feeling neglected now that the press is reporting the day to day activities like it did during the combat during the "war." Many of them feel that the public doesn't understand that they are still fighting and dieing every day. I also enjoyed how the film mixes the good and the bad the soldiers' experience. One block the kids are coming up to the soldiers to walk with them but the next block over, kids are throwing rocks at them. I do like how the movie shows what good things that are taking place over there, like visiting orphanage's and helping people in the street. I didn't like the continuous mocking of the President and Secretary Rumsfeld all though it's to be expected because this movie did have a anti-war feeling to it. Yet the content was still good.

What was horrible was the total lack or direction in the movie and the editing of the movie. I was constantly turning up the volume on my TV to hear what the man behind the camera was saying, yet had to turn it down when the Rap music came on. I then had to turn it up when he was interviewing the soldiers but turn it down when the fighting began. Poor sound editing. I also really couldn't follow what was going on. At one point, about a hour into the movie, the cameraman says he is going home, and we do indeed see pictures of him at his house. When then hear how one of the soldiers he visited was killed, and the next scene, without explanation we are back in Iraq. Did he go back after he heard the death of his friend, or did he just provide more pictures of stuff he took? Later on it becomes semi-clear that he goes back, but he never really says it. It could be his cameraman for all we know.

There is a wonderful interview with a kid over in Iraq who talks about his hometown, of Colorado Springs, and how when he left to join the Army, there was construction at the I-25 and Woodmen intersection. He then tells how since then, he lived in Germany for a year, got called to invade Iraq, and toppled a country, helped build it back up, and after all of that, he goes to the internet to look at the Colorado Springs newspaper to see a headline that said Woodmen Intersection making some progress. For those of use, like me, who lived in Colorado Springs during that time, could really appreciate that comment. I laughed out loud at that comment.

This could have been a wonderful movie, but because of the lack of direction the movie falls into confusion on more than one occasion. Interesting material, but poor story telling by the director.

**This review and others can be read at www.bbmc.dockratent.com**
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4/10
Available as a bootleg DVD on the streets of Iraq now
Chris_Docker19 August 2005
I met director and ex-soldier Michael Tucker just before the screening of his documentary about post-war, minor-conflict Iraq. He looked very sombre and said American audiences tend to look at Iraq reporting as entertainment. As somebody who has followed the reporting of the Iraq war quite avidly (and with the advantage of British and international media coverage rather than the more one-sided American broadcasts), I assured him I was very interested to see what his film had to say. Disappointingly, I didn't feel this was very much.

Michael Tucker has known ten people that have been killed in Iraq since he worked there with them. That is no small burden to be carrying. Sadly, I neither knew them, nor do I see any similarity between the U.S. troops in the film and British troops that would enable me to empathise to any great degree. With a couple of exceptions, the young Americans portrayed are not the best of adverts for their country - not for any terrible wrong-doing - simply they remind me of the sort of youths that hang about on street corners, that don't take anything too seriously, but have been give a wage and taught to use a gun. One female soldier and a bespectacled young man seem fairly articulate, but the others fill up much footage with inane jokes, playing guitar, and rapping. This might be quite understandable as a way of letting off steam when faced with daily dangers that most of us cannot even conceive of, but it paints a pretty uninviting picture of the individuals. As liberators, they are far from role models. If the army does them some good (which might be arguable both ways) that does not excuse the impression they create worldwide, of loud mouthed youths that have little interest or understanding of others.

When I tackled Tucker about this after the film, he pointed out that the average age of American troops was quite young - about 20 - as opposed to their British counterparts, who are a bit older and more mature. Gunner Palace is the name of Saddam's former palace, now occupied by American troops and used for general partying. I searched in vain for something that would add to the arguments about the rights and wrongs of the Iraq invasion. Tucker said the general American feeling he encountered was that people supported the troops even if they didn't support the war. When I asked him how this was different in any way to his view, he seemed stumped, said his view kept changing, then he admitted he felt America had bit off more than it could chew. To him, the 'rights and wrongs' were 'obvious'. Really? We must be pretty obtuse in Britain to have been having such a lengthy debate over it in that case. Even with a Masters Degree in ethics I don't find the rights and wrongs of such a complex situation 'obvious'. I have many wonderful friends who are Americans, so I know the ones portrayed in his movie are not completely representative - but they do bolster the image Americans (according to international studies) have abroad of being noisy bullies. Apparently test screenings to army units considered the way Gunner Palace portrays the troops quite fair and representative.

I pressed Tucker on whether there was an over-riding reason why he had chosen to make such a movie (I could think of a number - one might be as a tribute to the soldiers killed and a memorial their families could keep). He said he felt the media didn't cover what being an ordinary soldier in Iraq was like. That's a pretty decent reason and I support his objective in wanting to document it. Gunner Palace does show the day to day life of the squaddies (although the film could easily have been condensed into 15 minutes to show this - at 85m it has a boring monotony, too much rap, elaborate praise of McDonalds and Snapple, and kids joking about for so long that Rumsfeld starts to sound fascinating). But Gunner Palace fails to show the deeper ways those youngsters will have been affected. How far it succeeded in its stated objective is maybe for history to decide - and in the event that history can be bothered, it is to be hoped that there will be more substantial backgrounds than Mr Tucker's film alone provides. But seeing as both Americans and Iraqis have lost so much in the war it is good that responses from those countries have been appreciative.

Apparently bootleg copies are freely available on the streets of Iraq.
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You'll be surprised.
Jessica (llyoddob)28 February 2005
I have seen this movie and was very moved by it. If you go into it with an open mind and wanting to learn and see first hand what it was like for those boys when they got there and as they are living there. It is hard to say that anything is not politically motivated, but if anything this film tries its best not to be. It is not pro-Bush or anti-Bush, pro-War or Anti-war...it just is what it is. Open honest communication from soldiers to a film maker who they trusted, who lived with them, who saw what they saw.

And if you go into the film thinking that it will be all of that, you will be surprised, if you think that it will be all about what they are doing there and how wonderful it is, you will be surprised and if you think that for one minute you can debate what these boys are saying then for one you are an ass & you will be surprised by what you hear.

I sincerely hope that this film becomes wildly popular so that everyone can see it, and have a better understanding about what is going on over there and what we are all arguing about here at home.
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2/10
rap video
boston_ft_hood9 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have to say the director is currently here at fort hood doing a DVD signing and i thought the video was of very poor quality, not edited very well at all, and really was nothing more than a rap video. so much rap in fact it really had nothing to do with the war. I think where the director was heading in a sort of hidden way was that he was against our mission in Iraq. A young Lt. died and there was really very little mention of this man. It seemed to me the director actively looked for the lower educated soldiers or the ones he believed were not in support of the war. I must tell you from experience that this is just not the case most or our soldiers don't cut rap records and aren't against the war. very poor indeed. worth a look if you are bored but you won't learn much.
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2/10
Not Good
daniel-ambia5 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is not a good movie. The director's voice is obnoxious and he is constantly commenting on everything that is happening. The worst part is when he films his own home however many months later and says something to the extent of, "I'm home now and safe, but those guys are still over there risking their lives for our freedom blah blah." Very melodramatically. The background music is poorly produced hip hop by the soldiers in gunner palace and it really doesn't flow well with the rest of the picture. Gunner Palace is boring because the makers tried too hard to strike some sort of nerve and missed completely. The soldiers that are interviewed are not very bright and it's boring to watch unintelligent people talk. While imminent danger is nearby, they never seem to run into any problems throughout the film. I wouldn't call it a war story because where is the war? Might as well watch the evening news reporters stand around interviewing deployed soldiers. Gone are the days of filmmakers actually putting themselves in the sh#t to tell a good story. The makers acted like embedded reporters reporting on only one side of the conflict according to a bunch of nineteen year old morons. You should see Occupation Dreamland. The soldiers are more interesting and the audience gets a better feel for the way things are because Iraqi civilians are interviewed as well. The truth is that a lot of Americans do not treat the Iraqi people very well. It's difficult to do so when you have no idea why you are stuck thousands of miles from home in a desert and you are unaware of how you have been manipulated by your government to occupy a country under false pretexts. Does anyone remember Vietnam? Jesus. It's like it never happened. This movie sucked.
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7/10
Check it out.
Bill5 July 2005
An interesting, if somewhat aimless, first hand view of American troops in Baghdad. Using what appears to be a hand held digital video camera, we're plopped in the middle of Baghdad at "Gunner Palace," a former Saddam Hussein mansion. It's now HQ for 400 soldiers on daily thrill rides through the streets of Baghdad.

The endless scenes of raids, patrols, and arrests are interspersed with rap and chat with the troops. Rapping (some of not too bad, all of it heavy on obscenity) is obviously a stress reliever for kids in a combat zone. The commentary from the soldiers is sometimes funny, and sometimes tragic.

I'm not sure how they got to make this film. I thought all the journalists were confined to the safety of the Green Zone. This crew is on the scene, in the humvees, and on patrol with soldiers. It's fascinating footage...even if it seems like a lot of the patrols are pointless.

If you want to get a sense of what it's like to live in fear 24/7, to wonder whether a bag left on the curb is going to blow you up, and whether you'll be forgotten by the people back home, this is your flick. At 1 hour, 26 minutes, it's not a big time commitment. But if you want something with a plot, that teaches you about life, or that has a happy ending, don't bother. War doesn't have any of those things.
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4/10
Disturbing, entertainment style documentary. Poorly presented.
Richard Brunton26 August 2005
The film maker followed the troops based in Gunner Palace through various missions and patrols, filming what occurred on the streets, interviewing the soldiers back at the Palace, and editing all this together with a deep husky type, you can even hear it in the lines as well as the actual voice. Running over that is a hip-hop soundtrack, some of which is chosen by the soldiers, and some even sung or played by them.

So there's the first problem, we're suddenly faced with a documentary that plays out like Full Metal Jacket or some similar movie, action, glib comments, high jinks, fun and laughter and a booming soundtrack. This presented a totally different view over what I had been expecting.

The soundtrack plays over most of what's going, so when there's an explosion or gunfire nearby and everyone turns there's not much of an impact on the audience as the sounds are lost in the beats of the music. This goes for the times when nothing is happening too, the patrols are out and you're hearing this music wondering if the beat in the background was a shot, explosion or just a loud bass.

This is the most distracting part of the documentary. It lightens the whole movie and lifts from the gravity of some key scenes. When you're watching, sitting next to the gunner standing out of the top of the vehicle, you should be as scared and alert as he is, yet you're too busy hearing the music. It does remove you from the scenes and remind you that you really are in the audience, and that's where a lot of the effectiveness of the movie is lost.

There's also another side to the audio that bothered me, it was so difficult to hear some of the soldiers when they weren't in a straight interview, so during patrol or mission scenes you would be struggling to hear what was being said, and a lot of the time you would be missing it. So there were subtitles, but really selective subtitles, which would sometimes only appear for one line of someone talking, you wouldn't hear what else they said or what the response was from the person they were talking to. This was the team behind the documentary deciding which lines to subtitle, leaving the rest to be lost in the noise of everything else going on.

Couple these together and when you hear of a soldier dying in the course of the filming, it really didn't have as much of an impact as it should have. The audience should have been shocked and suddenly finding themselves thinking about the reality of the situation, however it didn't. Yes, it was terrible, and you understood someone had died, but it was almost cheapened by the entertainment style of the documentary.

Finally on the audio, why were there so many guitar solos, continually turning to the guitar as either the voice over rasped away and caught up, or there were shots of the setting sun behind. The rapping soldiers were good, because you could hear them telling a story, they had something to say and something about the situation they were in.

This was a disturbing movie, but disturbing for almost the wrong reasons. There were plenty of funny moments where the audience laughed, but mostly we weren't laughing at a joke, we were laughing at the ineptitude or idiotic moments, usually from the American soldiers' mouths. When you laughed there was an immediate feeling that you shouldn't be laughing, this was wrong, and you shouldn't find it funny, I was laughing in disbelief.

The entire film focused on these soldiers, their antics at the Palace, their split between treating the Iraqi people well and treating them with disrespect and heavy handedness, and the fact that they didn't seem to take in the seriousness of the situations. Perhaps they did, and perhaps this was their way of coping with it, yet it never sat well with me, and I thought that this portrayed them in an extremely poor light.

However, there were expectations, and these were usually in the higher ranks. At the end, one soldier, Sergeant Beatty says the most intelligent thing of the whole film, a comment which I really thought should have been the tone for the entire movie, yet it was just a fleeting moment.

The timeline of filming also seemed to bring much confusion, we were continually being shown what day the filming took place on, Monday, Tuesday, etc. but no concept of dates or months. Then the film maker is suddenly on a plane and back at home, yet this is right in the middle of the movie and there's no explanation, he's just gone home, and we're still seeing scenes from Gunner Palace. Suddenly, before you know it, the film maker is back out and filming on patrol. This was all very confusing and made for a muddled timeline, it makes the scenes seem much more separated, and pulls back the audience.

Still there are some good things that come out of the film, it shows just how over stretched the soldiers are, how young and inexperienced they are, how often they get attacked and how they deal with policing the Iraqi's. It does show how tough a time they are having over there, and we shouldn't forget that, forget them, or forget why they are there.

On hearing that the movie was pirated in Iraq and sold on street corners I wondered just how responsible it was showing this to the Iraqi people. Showing the soldiers' real thoughts, the way they behaved, scenes of lounging in the Palace and even one where a soldier dresses as a holy man in a slightly degrading way. Is that really bringing something positive, and are we really seeing the story of these guys in the proper light, rather than an entertainment show?
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7/10
Advertisement for the military
tucker-346 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Like the majority of other media, this film shows war without the warfare. Not a single dead body -- Iraqi nor American -- is shown in the film. What is war without blood and death? That is what war is. To not convey this is to not tell the truth.

There are verbal references to a few of the 1,827 American soldiers that have died during this war, and to the 23,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians that have been killed (depending on what source you use) but there's no raw visual footage that shows what words cannot convey.

Instead of showing the full truth of war, the film focuses too much on soldiers partying around a clear blue swimming pool. It could make a great recruitment tool.
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4/10
It should have been so much more…
Michael DeZubiria14 January 2006
When I say that Gunner Palace should have been more, I don't mean that it should have been a better or more in-depth look at the lives of the troops in Iraq. Indeed, it is one of the closest looks at the daily lives of the soldiers over there that we have been able to see since the war started, but Director Michael Tucker has no idea how to get good interviews from the soldiers, and he messes it up even worse when he decides to talk.

It's really sad that so many of the soldiers were handed this incredible opportunity to give a first account depiction of what their experience is like in Iraq and they use it to just screw around and act like idiots. Granted, a lot of these kids are barely out of high school, but I wish Tucker would have concentrated on the ones that had something important to say. I have all the respect in the world for these guys, but when it comes to getting an idea of what it's like to live in Iraq in a time of war, I'd be happy to stick to the guys that want to really talk about what's important, I could do without the interviews of the guys that just want to be funny.

The guys that just want to be funny, of course, do not include the musicians featured in this documentary. Most of them are not making the kind of music that I am interested in but it is good to see that so many of them take their difficult experiences and channel it into something productive.

The biggest problem that I had with this movie, however, is the goofy, melodramatic voice-over that Tucker put in every once in a while. Yes, it is some pretty dramatic subject matter, but the way that Tucker narrates this documentary reminds me at times of the way John Bunnell hosts World's Wildest Police Videos. He over-dramatizes everything in a way that just makes it sound goofy (I once saw an episode where a car running from the police went briefly onto the shoulder on a country road and knocked down a couple of pieces of rotted wood that were sticking up through the dry grass, and Bunnell chimes in, "the fleeing madman SMASHES through a wooden barricade!!!").

Tucker doesn't fill his documentary with unnecessary hyperbole like Bunnell does, but rather with a misplaced theatrical performance as the narrator. Where simple descriptions would have been sufficient, Tucker opts for an added performance that just makes him hard to listen to. When it comes to a direct look at the lives of the troops in Iraq, I just don't think anything extra is necessary, but it seems that he concentrates more on this than on the really relevant things that are going on. There are some soldiers who do give important insight, but so much time is wasted and so much extra fluff is put in that it makes a lot of the documentary look like farce.
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Repetition of compulsory patriotism
dontspamme-1129 April 2010
"Oppose the war, support the troops"--This tiresome message that some self-identified American "liberals" believe bridges the partisan divide in US politics has become the M.O. of countless American war films and and documentaries since the Vietnam War. It's tiresome because it actually works to re-center US soldiers as 'victims', deflect attention from those most victimized by wars, and generally erases the larger politics in which it is not the individual soldiers, but nationalism, that is most complicit with the violence of war we have now habituated ourselves to as part of the everyday, that we can simply switch off, click away, and ignore.

The soldiers here are real people, and the documentary shows that (unlike de Palma's "Redacted" which, while not a documentary, pilfered docu-aesthetics to appear as one, and failing miserably in its delivery because the characters were so one-dimensional). The Iraqis are rarely shown here, except as malcontents pelting rocks at military Humvee, suspected 'insurgents' having their homes broken into late at night, and getting arrested for the sketchiest of reasons. The film attempts to shore up critical reflections on the Iraq debacle near the end, but only as an attempt to convey the impression of a 'balanced view-point.' A passing grade because the film at least tried--even though it fails.
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