This Is War – DVD Review

It has been said that War films get pretty samey – murky, grey-washed backdrops with a small band of the few and the brave, gradually marching their way towards their mission. However, with some character development and character losses along the way, everyone is ultimately better off at the end for having achieved their goal and won the war. Sadly though, being a trooper on the frontline is seldom like that in real life. It’s harsh, it’s brutal, and it’s not the best way of life for anyone. But they do it for a reason, and anyone who decides to put their life on the line on a daily basis has personal reasons for doing so. This Is War is entirely about that – life as a marine, and just how real it can get.

This Is War is more than just a documentary film about the Iraq war. It’s a firsthand account of life as a marine on the frontline, on the way to Baghdad to fight Saddam and to give a country back its freedom. It’s about the highs and lows of life at sea, surviving in the desert, and constantly facing danger.  It’s not just about the War; it’s about the REAL War – the psychological AND physical fight that these Marines go through on a daily basis. This Is War is the work of First Lieutenant Mike Scotti who, in July 2002, volunteered to extend his service with the American Marine Corps. Six months later he found himself on the frontline of one of the most notorious military strikes of recent years – Operation: Iraqi Freedom. What resulted was Scotti‘s recording of over 60 hours of firsthand experience from the frontline of the operation. The footage he captured on his Mini DV camera recorded just about every step of the operation from start to finish, and upon his return he entrusted documentary filmmaker Kristian Fraga with all of his tapes. Fraga then edited the material Scotti had collected into This Is War – a feature length documentary that brings you so close to the real world of Marines operations that if you were any closer to the action, you’d be holding a rifle and wearing combat gear.

Like a marriage of Cloverfield and The Hurt Locker, with a bit of an affair with Full Metal Jacket on the side, This Is War is the most engaging and eye-opening account of life in the Iraq war you’re likely to find.  From the little things that keep the marines grounded like reminders of why they’re fighting, loved ones, or getting mail, to the frighteningly brutal scenes of destruction on the frontline in Kuwait, This Is War pulls no punches in its coverage of the mundane daily chores to the extreme adrenaline-fuelled encounters with relentless Iraqi Paramilitaries. And that is exactly what sets This Is War apart from other films – its visceral reality of actual encounters.

Perhaps one of the most interesting points of This Is War is the fact that you share the perspective of Scotti and his fellow marines, and get a genuine idea of the mind-set and beliefs that each of them carries into the battlefield with them. Scotti’s unique narration and insight into his perspective of the events is both grounded and honest, yet also understandably one-sided given the amount of hindsight into the events of 2003 we now have. There is an understanding behind what all of the Military personnel were being told was the situation (Saddam Hussein being accused of harbouring WMD’s), and although the attitude of the marines in some scenes might not be very favourable, you find yourself able to understand why they do what they do. Scotti’s flippancy towards the events might seem overly sarcastic, but it’s also honest and true. As such, you find yourself being unsure whether to like or hate their attitude towards the war and the treatment of the insurgents they encounter, but you still end up respecting the fact that they are there on the frontline, and constantly facing the danger of an attack.

This Is War successfully breaks down any barriers between audience and subject, and manages to place you centrally in the action like never before. Equal parts sarcastically funny and realistically brutal, This Is War manages to capture your attention and hold it for every second of the film as you share just a small part of what every marine experiences on a daily basis. This is not just war, this is honest, this is brutal, and above all this is real.

This Is War is available on DVD from October 4th and if you’re a fan of war dramas, then this is the real deal!

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2 Comments

  1. This sounds like a great film, I don’t know what I would do if someone handed me 60 hours of footage!! I’m really interested at an editors point of view of how the movie is.

    • 60 hours is a LOT more than it sounds, but I’m guessing that since it seems he would just turn his camera on at the slightest hint of something interesting, the first step would be to cut out everything that was just general everyday stuff. Theres a lot of cutting together what seems like days worth of footage at sea into a montage of things that they do on a daily basis to show the monotony that they deal with most of the time. The rest of it is edited together so its in “Chapters” that are reflective of the book that Scotti is writing after he finishes his service, which is why its his voiceover throughout the film. I guess Fraga must have just had a very clear idea from Scotti of what to do with which parts, and what were the best bits to use. Although, it must be said, there is a HUGE amount of deleted scenes in the Bonus Features!!


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