War movies have always succeeded in stimulating interest among the audience, often with an overdose of patriotism. In the recent past we have had two masterpieces in this genre with Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. If you were complaining that these movies were too grim and lacked a bit of humor then this movie attempts to address it. But the humor is dark, and don't expect any respite on the action front. If anything it is even more macabre than most of the others.
The movie is set in the period immediately after the Gulf War in 1991-92. The American Army is celebrating the end of the war and a victory over Iraq. Even as the finishing touches are being given by rounding up some errant Iraqi soldiers, a few of their American counterparts are looking forward to days away from the army and war.
In the meantime, a sort of map is found stuck in the behind (yuck) of an Iraqi soldier. While Sergeant Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Sergeant Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) and Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) are trying to figure out the route to what appear as bunkers, Sergeant Major Archie Bates (George Clooney) takes an interest in it.
Bates, who is scheduled to retire in two weeks, claims that these bunkers contain stacked away gold bricks belonging to Saddam Hussein, who stole them from the Sheiks. These soldiers cannot resist the lure of easy money after what they have endured in the war. So, off they go on a treasure hunt. On there trail is a frustrated NBS reporter Adriana Cruz (Nora Dunn).
Encounters with the Iraqi soldiers and some civilians bring to their notice the rancorous relations between the two. After securing the gold, an incident involving the killing of a civilian woman and the pleas of the other rebels gets the foursome involved in the civil war.
Their efforts to rescue the incarcerated rebels have them breaking the ceasefire in the gulf. A grievous injury to Troy and his subsequent capture by the Iraqis force the group to retrace their steps back and rescue him. The rest of the movie has the group trying to get out of the mess.
The violence in the movie is horrifying as each instance is captured in a super-slow motion, and often blood spills like water from a fountain. Even otherwise, it moves at a frenetic pace.
It was being expected that this movie would raise questions about the usefulness of the Gulf war and present to us an alternative view. Nothing of the sort materialises, and though more than one character asks, "What have we done here?" there are no new answers forthcoming. If anything, it appears to reinforce the view that American presence in the Gulf was indispensable to the civilians of Iraq.
Anyway, it is not to be taken seriously, for this is no more than a fantasy built around a real situation in the past. Isn't that what Hollywood does every time?
Among the main performers, George Clooney is a disappointment. He hardly does more than issue commands and mouth some not-so-smart dialogues. Mark Wahlberg makes a mark with a lively performance. Actually, such movies do not give much scope for the actors to display their skills.
If you can cope with the gore in the movie, you may just be able to enjoy it.