The War Tapes (2006)


The War Tapes Storyline

Straight from the front lines in Iraq, THE WAR TAPES is the first war movie filmed by soldiers themselves. These soldiers bypassed Pentagon supervised media to share their experience like never before. Funnier, spicier, and more gut wrenching than news reports, this is Operation Iraqi Freedom as filmed by Sergeant Steve Pink, Sergeant Zack Bazzi and Specialist Mike Moriarty. Steve is a wisecracking carpenter who aspires to be a writer. Zack is a Lebanese-American university student who loves to travel and is fluent in Arabic. Mike is a father who seeks honor and redemption. Each leaves a woman behind – a girlfriend, a mother and a wife. Through their candid footage, these men open their hearts and take us on an unforgettable journey, capturing camaraderie and humor along with the brutal and terrifying experiences they face. These soldiers got the story that 2,700 embedded reporters never could.—TheWarTapes

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The War Tapes Movie Reviews

A Band Of Brothers

THE WAR TAPES is one of the finest films to come out of Operation Iraqi Freedom. What sets this film apart is that it is the first war movie filmed by soldiers themselves. Sergeant Steve Pink, a college English major before joining The National Guard, and several of his buddies filmed their experiences in the spring of 2004. The arc of the film encompasses the full range of their story; Training, Deployment, Combat, and finally, The Homecoming. Condensing hundreds of hours of unhampered footage, Director Deborah Scranton, and Producer/Editor Steve James (HOOP DREAMS) create ninety-seven minutes of enthralling Film Verite. This is far superior to the weak, and usually partisan, ’embedded’ approach to this war. The soldiers very convincingly expound on the wide variety of their political opinions and their differences on the enforcement of our country’s foreign policy. One of the men tells of the pervasive influence of Houston, Texas based Halliburton Corporation which operates seemingly without oversight. He says, “Everybody stands to make money the longer that we are there”. He goes on to depict and detail a few of these limitless cost over-runs. Could this be one factor in our slow departure from Iraqi? After watching this section of the film it caused me to see, “Support The Troops”, in a less than noble light. However, you come away from THE WAR TAPES not with a new vision of how America’s geopolitical policy is formed, but rather how this endeavor changed the men who strove to establish it.

Has The Ring Of Truth. Look Out Jake Gyllenhaal, Zack Bazz Has Great Camera Presence.

Not even the fiercest opponent of the War in Iraq has anything but praise for the men and women in our military over there doing a tough job. As a Veteran, I support the troops. I support them so much, I don’t want to see a single one killed or injured for bogus reasons.

With that in mind, I have to say I was very impressed with this film. The War Tapes is put together from footage shot by real soldiers on the ground doing the day-to-day jobs that soldiers do. Only here, it seems they spend much of their time providing back up support for civilian KBR/Halliburton employees who make five times what they are paid.

Why have an Army Private drive a supply truck for $20,000 a year when you can hire a Halliburton guy to drive it for $100,000? And no, Vice President Dick Cheney (former CEO of Halliburton) had nothing to do with the company getting lucrative “no bid” contracts in Iraq. How on earth is that even possible? The candor of the three men who provide the focus of the narrative is refreshing. I agree with them, this is a war for oil. And, if oil is not worth fighting for, then what is? But don’t try and sell the bull that this is for democracy.

This film is comprised of footage these men took during the year (2004) of their deployment. Fortunately, all of them return to the USA without any injuries, but there is evident psychological damage in two of them. Mike Moriarty and Steve Pink seemed to be fairly closed off, emotionally scared men before going into the Army; I don’t think the Army made them that way; although Iraq may have exacerbated their nascent problems. They seem to come from that school of male behavior that says that anything resembling a feeling must be repressed, lest it be considered feminine. But they are so wrong. At least Steve Pink gets his feelings out in his writing. Indeed his descriptions of what he sees that we hear in letters sent home are very literary, with imaginative allusions and they surpass what most professional journalists write.

My favorite guy in this group is Zack Bazz, who was born in Lebanon, came to America when he was ten and speaks Arabic. He at least has an understanding of the Arab culture and he is frequently called in to translate for difficult situations. He has beautiful dark eyes, full bushy eyebrows and a sweet open smile. Are you paying attention Hollywood? If Audie Murphy can become a film star after WW2, than Zack Bazz could be one when he’s done in Iraq. I don’t know if the guy can act, but he certainly has camera presence. When he’s on screen, you don’t notice anyone else.

I like how Bazz also explains the insurgency. As he says, if Canada had invaded the USA after the 2000 elections claiming that Bush and company stole the election (a reasonable belief), it would not be unreasonable for gangs of Bush supporters to take to the hills with their weapons and fight back. So you see, Bush supporters and Saddam supporters are a lot closer than you might think.

One odd thing occurs, Mike Moriarty says something that puzzles me. Explaining how he felt after 9/11, he claims that he felt totally frustrated. We then see some home video footage Moriarty shot on September 28, 2001 of the still smoking ruins of the World Trade Center. Moriarty then claims he immediately went to his Army recruiter and asked specifically to be put into a unit being sent to Iraq.

This was in September of 2001. Not even George Bush was touting Iraq as a cause for 9/11 that early. Did this happen the way it is shown or was this just some unclear film editing? How did Mike Moriarty know in September of 2001 that he needed to go to Iraq? Bush himself has since admitted that there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11, so is this just a mistake or what? If anyone has an answer for this please let me know, because it struck me as being a false note in a film that generally has the ring of truth.

Powerful Masterpiece.

I just saw this film at the Tribeca Film Festival and was moved by how compelling it was.

Director Deborah Scranton had an opportunity to become an embedded journalist with a National Guard Unit from New Hampshire deployed to Iraq. She turned down the opportunity, but instead gave cameras to several soldiers who agreed to film their experiences while serving their tour of duty. The images are striking and disturbing. The words of the soldiers are as real and raw as anything I’ve ever seen. These are men who are facing a deadly enemy every day yet still do their job proudly and professionally. The soldiers do not hold back their views on the war; and those views do differ wildly. Nonetheless, they all believe firmly that no matter the reason why we are there, we must finish the job right. It was also a special treat to watch the audience give them a several minute standing ovation during the Q & A. These are all intelligent and heroic men who sacrifice a great deal. Even more amazing, they reveal their flaws for the camera, and their humanity is even more compelling.

Had the filmmakers merely shown footage of the soldiers, that would have been enough. However, they also took footage of the families during the year these husbands, fathers and sons were gone. The wives, girlfriends and mothers show the viewer that not only are the soldiers sacrificing a great deal, but so are the families. The footage of one mother who escaped a war-torn Lebanon only to see her son go off to war as a volunteer was absolutely heart wrenching. I would challenge anyone not to cry at that scene, and many others. Most movies invoke emotion by a good story or good acting. This story is real and the people are real, and that is what makes it so overwhelmingly powerful.

Honestly, I had expected this film to be an anti-war or Bush-bashing screed but the film is both political and non-political. No matter how one feels about the war, this film will make their views even stronger.

This film deserves critical acclaim. More importantly, this film deserves to be watched by as many people as possible.