Film Reviews

GUNNER PALACE

By • Mar 4th, 2005 •

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QUOTE: A revealing look at daily life right now in Iraq.

GUNNER PALACE is a documentary about a unit U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. The filmmakers,Michael Tucker and his wife Petra Epperlein, spent two months with the 400 soldiers of the 2/3rd Field Artillery. The 2/3rd set up their living quarters in Azimya Palace. The bombed out palace once belonged to Saddam Hussein’s ruthless killer/rapist/torturer/thief/impotent son, Uday.

It always amazes me that nobody ever has a good exit plan: Cleopatra, Octavian is coming after you. He wants your kingdom and treasure. Instead of hightailing it out of Egypt once Marc Antony lost the sea battle at Actium and hiding your sons, what do you do? Pablo Escobar, I still find it hard to believe that was you running shirtless and barefoot on the roof of your house. You were the 7th richest man in the world and you lived in a row house without air-conditioning? Where was your Columbian Necktie Exit Plan? Wasn’t this the best time to use your billions of dollars? And there you are splayed out in front of the kneeling, smiling commandos like a big game trophy. Hitler, Mussolini, and Uday all had absolutely no get-out-of-town cards! Uday’s final idea for a bodyguard was his 14 year-old nephew? What happened to Uday’s million-dollar watch? I still cannot believe that Saddam went from mud house to mud house and was finally found in a hole with $700,000 in cash in his pocket.

Okay, Josef Menegle made it out safe and clear. Does this mean that The Angel of Death had one friend and a plan, but Hitler had neither?

Where did all of Saddam’s billions go? Not one dime was spent on escaping the invader’s army.

The 2/3rd Field Artillery patrols the busy streets of one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq. Tucker and Epperlein had unprecedented access and for a soldier’s family it is a shocking view of what it is like to spend a tour of duty in Iraq. I was fascinated that Iraq is cluttered with people, cars, and industry. Life and commerce goes on, no matter who is in power. It looks like a mobbed New York City but with soldiers patrolling the streets.

GUNNER PALACE allows the viewer to keep their personal judgments intact. There is no persuasive Michael Moore point-of-view. I’m against the occupation of Iraq and there is more than enough here to support my position. Those who agree with U.S. policy in Iraq will also find ample foundation for their views as well. The soldiers are all likeable and doing what they are told to do.

You are minding your own business living with your family behind a huge iron gate. Your city is notoriously dangerous even though Uday had a palace nearby. One night, a year after the U.S. occupation of your country, a bulldozer crashes into your iron gate. U.S. soldiers are looking for an “insurgent.” Not finding him, the soldiers leave. Who pays to have the iron gate repaired?

A religious leader is wanted for questioning. He is not home but soldiers ransack his house and find $48,000US. They take it. Does he get it back or does it go into some “spoils of war” kitty?

GUNNER PALACE highlights several engaging members of the 2/3rd: There is rapper Sgt. Nick Moncrief; SPC Stuart Wilf, who brought his guitar with him; and LTC Bill Rabena, who likes the perks of palace life. We see the men and women enjoying Uday’s pool and having a barbecue.

Without promoting a political agenda, GUNNER PALACE is an intimate look at a soldier’s life in Iraq that network and cable TV has yet to show us. The ordinariness of life in Iraq is rather surprising.

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