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Mission Accomplished: Langan in Iraq (2007)

Seven months after the end of the war, acclaimed BBC journalist and filmmaker Sean Langan (Behind the Lines, Travels of a Gringo), armed with just a camera, takes a brave and eventful trip ... See full summary »

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Seven months after the end of the war, acclaimed BBC journalist and filmmaker Sean Langan (Behind the Lines, Travels of a Gringo), armed with just a camera, takes a brave and eventful trip through Iraq, seeking to shed light on the current situation. Langan meets with US troops (and witnesses insurgent attacks first-hand). Written by Anonymous

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17 April 2007 (UK)  »

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Impacting, balanced, subjective and honest view of the Iraq invasion that is nothing more than good journalism
13 May 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Seven months after President Bush declared the end of major military engagement in Iraq (mission accomplished – a moment that was exactly four years before I saw this film, by coincidence), Sean Langan arrived there himself for the first time. This film follows him as he looks around Iraqi cities at the experiences of those living in the new democracy and the coalition's approach to winning the battle for peace.

With the ongoing (never ending?) war in Iraq seeking to remove WMD's, provide freedom to the Iraqi people, destroy the support for Bin Laden or whatever our aim happens to always have been at the time you read this, one thing is constant – the presence of journalists. You may not know it if you rely on certain US news networks, but mostly the honest access to the situation on the ground is unprecedented. So with this sort of access still on the screens daily, what reason is there to watch more of the same that is now a few years old? Well, the short answer is lots for several reasons. The most depressing reason is that everything that Langan looks at continues to be relevant thanks to the ongoing mess that Iraq is in and the political and military mire that we are in for years now. One would hope that it would look like a terrible reminder of what once was but sadly it isn't – in fact it reminded me of how little had changed apart from just getting worse. The main reason that the film is worth seeing is the balanced way that Langan looks at the subject. Although there are political digs there if you are looking for them, mostly he approaches the subject with a clear head and unbiased eye. He demonstrates this in the way that he doesn't sit with the military any more than he does walk the streets or interviewing leaders of the insurgency. The effect is deeply impacting and deeply distressing as he (and the viewer) gets it from all points of view and you come out of it seeing what a mess we have created and how there doesn't appear any way out of it aside from the unthinkable – walking away and letting the country collapse and then rebuild itself somehow without Western help. I thought this and yet again wondered what the point had been in the whole affair.

You can question the risks he takes, but Langan gets very close to his subjects and he gets the goods as a result. It is very interesting to hear interviews about the conditions of the prisons and the reports of torture from released inmates and translators – not anything new perhaps but this was before all the revelations came out about what was being done in our name first came out. However he also goes around with the US military and experiences attacks and I was left in little doubt that, in their shoes, my response would be to return fire on anything and see everyone as a suspect and treat them as such. One very powerful moment sees him contrasting footage of a unit below a bridge with footage shot by insurgents of a suicide attack on that same unit that was to kill several of those Langan met. The size of the explosion is terrifying and all the more impacting for having met the people. This balanced approach may annoy some who want it to be clean, black and white and easy to understand but it makes for a tremendous film.

Overall then, this is very worth seeking out because of just how balanced and subjective it is. The end result is that the film is a depressingly honest view of the conflict from all sides. The challenges are clear and seem insurmountable as everyone seems to be "right" in how they view things while also being "wrong" at the same times. A great documentary that is nothing more than good journalism.


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