Starring: George Clooney; Mark Wahlberg; Ice Cube
Director: David O. Russell
Distributor: Village RoadshowPictures
It’s 1991. Operation Desert Storm is over and most American soldiers stationed in Iraq are celebrating. But one major Archie Gates (George Clooney) has just laid his hands on a map, shoved up a member of the enemy’s rear end, that identifies the location of a hoard of gold bullion stolen by Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. With just two weeks to go before his retirement, Gates resolves to steal the gold for himself and recruits the help of Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) and Chief Elgin (Ice Cube).
At dawn, the four set off for what they imagine will be an easy raid but things soon get way out of hand when, in a sudden moment of consciousness, they realise their deceit; they are supposed to be the saviours of the Iraqi people but under George Bush Senior, they’re abandoning Saddam’s opponents and leaving them to his torturers. Before too long, they too are being interrogated; “What is the problem with Michael Jackson?” Captain Said (Said Tagmaoui) asks a trussed up Barlow. But he already has the answer. Jackson, he says, is “the pop king of a sick fucking country” that makes the black man hate himself so much that he whitens his skin and straightens his hair.
It’s a shocking, left-of-field indictment but writer/director David O. Russell has no qualms about laying his political cards on the table. He even made a follow up documentary called Soldier’s Pay that he hoped would encourage people to vote against Bush Junior but the studio refused to release it with the DVD. Instead, it comes with a behind-the-scenes documentary and a commentary by Russell who describes his film as “consumer culture crashing into contemporary warfare”. Ice cube calls it “a ride into craziness” and stories of Russell and Clooney having a full tilt fist fight on set attest to that.
A cow is blown up. A tanker of milk spills its guts. And a reporter drives off to find the story. But in this film, every bullet counts. With a razor sharp shooting style that captures each one’s trajectory, often in slow motion, this modern classic never misses a beat and its anti-war message can be heard, like a tom tom drum, a mile off.