A portrait of the war in Iraq as experienced by American soldiers in central Baghdad, Gunner Palace demonstrates that, for the soldiers themselves, the focus of their stint in Azimiya Palace (a gift from Saddam Hussein to his son, Uday) isn’t global politics but quotidian survival.
Two one-month stints with the Army’s 2/3 Field Artillery offer hitherto unseen images of life on the front line; while the men (only one female soldier is glimpsed) are sometimes seen relaxing in the palace’s pool or at the putting green, once outside its now bombed-out but still privileged walls, in Baghdad itself things get much grittier. The soldiers themselves provide the commentary on their own diverse experiences which include surprise raids in search of suspects or weapons caches and dealings with locals, ranging in levels of menace from teenage glue-sniffers to possible insurgents.
The youth and vitality of the soldiers is strikingly juxtaposed not only with the weight of responsibility they bear, but also the maturity and worldliness that comes from the ever present risk of death; during the period the film was made, eight men attached to 2/3 FA were killed. A thought-provoking and important film which articulates how one can, without contradiction, support the troops individually and collectively, yet still object to the enterprise that put them in this very foreign and increasingly perilous environment. KM