This is the true story of the most highly decorated British patrol since the Boer war: an eight man SAS team inserted behind Iraqi lines during the Gulf War in January 1991. Their mission wa... Read allThis is the true story of the most highly decorated British patrol since the Boer war: an eight man SAS team inserted behind Iraqi lines during the Gulf War in January 1991. Their mission was to take out the scud missiles which Saddam Hussein was using to terrorize his enemies, a... Read allThis is the true story of the most highly decorated British patrol since the Boer war: an eight man SAS team inserted behind Iraqi lines during the Gulf War in January 1991. Their mission was to take out the scud missiles which Saddam Hussein was using to terrorize his enemies, as well as to sever strategic communication lines between Baghdad and North West Iraq. This... Read all
History shows how it all went wrong. Their communications equipment failed. The weather closed in. They were discovered and fought a series of running battles with overwhelming Iraqi forces. Finally half the patrol was captured and endured weeks of torture and interrogation at the hands of the Iraqi secret police in Baghdad.
The story of Bravo Two Zero - the patrol's call sign and the title of this terrific British television movie - puts most Hollywood movies to shame. It is a story of courage, resilience, guile, resourcefulness and black humour. It also offers up a fascinating insight into the workings of Britain's special forces and the reality of the Gulf War.
There are those who consider the film one-sided, and it is. What war film isn't? How much objectivity goes into the average war film? The answer: precious little. Bravo Two Zero is based on the book by Andy McNab, the SAS sergeant who led the patrol. Consequently it tells the tale from his point of view.
But McNab doesn't come out of this a whiter-than-white superhero. He makes mistakes. He is human, fallible and, locked in a Baghdad prison, frightened out of his wits. For Sean Bean, it was the type of gritty, realistic and believable role that most actors would kill for. Throw in the authenticity of the soldiers' kit, jargon and reactions under fire - they were trained by real soldiers while McNab himself was the film's on-set consultant - and Bravo Two Zero leaps to the top spot in the (albeit limited) annals of Gulf War movies.
And the Iraqis? They are depicted as McNab saw them: peasant farmers, ill-equipped and poorly trained conscripts, goat herders, grieving parents and, occasionally, gentleman officers.
There is no agenda to Bravo Two Zero. Instead it seeks to present a soldier's story. And while there is another side to the story - patrol survivor Chris Ryan, who was separated from his comrades and fought his way across Iraq to the Syrian border, and freedom, also wrote an account - this is simply one man's version of events. McNab presents it as he saw it: a botched mission, eight desperate men, a series of bloody firefights and skirmishes, capture and torture and, finally, repatriation.
If the Iraqis come across as thuggish, brutal, dim and sadistic, then history has shown that Saddam Hussein's regime was built on such people. That was McNab's experience, and Bravo Two Zero puts it on screen.
What the film does not seek to do is present McNab and his patrol as trigger-happy killing machines. When they are spotted by an Iraqi child they spare his life rather than kill him to ensure his silence. As McNab says, it's a matter of common sense: kill a child and they will eventually face the wrath of the Iraqi people if they are caught. And, he adds: "We're not into that anyway".
Compromised by an elderly shepherd, they talk to him, make friends and let him live. On the outskirts of Baghdad the patrol hijacks a taxi. They spare the occupants. Consider this: would the average Saddam Hussein loyalist have done the same to an elderly Yank or Brit?
Bravo Two Zero is a superb document of a military debacle. It shows how professional soldiers, caught in a disaster, try to fight their way out. As soldiers, that's their job. And they do it exceptionally well. As the motto goes: Who Dares Wins. McNab and his men dared. Bravo Two Zero is a magnificent tribute to them.
- Aug 12, 2004