Battle for Haditha (2007) A Powerful Movie on the War in Iraq

The British movie Battle for Haditha is one of the best war movies on the war in Iraq because it manages to capture the complexity of the situation. It’s an extremely moving film that for once doesn’t glorify anything and achieves to show the ugly truth. It tells the true story of the cruel massacre of 24 civilians amongst which were women and children.

In 2005 a group of US Marines was ambushed by Iraqi insurgents. One of the officers got killed, two others were severely wounded. The remaining ones went on a killing spree that cost the lives of those civilians. For this war crime the commanding office was awarded a bronze medal. The US Army tried to cover up the whole story but four months later eye-witnesses told the truth.

As ugly as this story is Battle for Haditha doesn’t blame anyone but shows in great detail the parties involved in this massacre. Even if the movie doesn’t ultimately blame the US Marines, and in particular Cpl Ramirez whose nerves were on edge, it does point a finger at the US government. And rightly so.

The movie moves back and forth between three different viewpoints and ties three very different stories together. We see those young Marines who often join the Army because they have no chance to do anything else. They are shipped to Iraq but haven’t really got a clue what they are doing there. They face severe hostilities, they frequently come under fire, they are blown up and shot at and stressed out.

While the group around Cpl Ramirez moves toward the city of Haditha, two Iraqi men join the Mujaheddin and are instructed how and where to bury a bomb that they will also detonate with a mobile phone. The street that has been chosen is frequently used by Army convoys or reconnaissance on the way to Haditha. The two men have to hide in an empty building and survey the street until an US Army vehicle shows up and then blow up the bomb.

Close by is a housing complex in which two extended families live who are preparing for a party. One of them sees those men digging and they know what will happen. They are extremely scared. Should they report it, they might be executed by the Mujaheddin, if they don’t they might be arrested by the US Army. It’s a big Iraqi family, many children but also the parents and grandprents live together. They are very close and affectionate.

The two men who bury the bomb are just simple men without any political convictions. They are afraid of the Mujaheddin and they are dirt poor. Helping the Mujaheddin is a way to make some money and they do not foresee the consequences. Besides they are promised glory in heaven.

Broomfiled chose hardly any real actors and especially no stars to give this movie an even more authentic feel. The parts of the movie that show the Iraqi insurgents and the family are spoken in Arabic and subtitled which further enhances authenticity.

As far as anti-war movies go, this is a great movie. I think it also manages to illustrate some of the complex feelings and thoughts of all the parties involved.

The biggest achievement however is that Battle for Haditha manages to show us one or many likable characters in each of the three groups. They are all just humans hoping for a better life. One of the likable characters is the unfortunate Cpl Ramirez who, when he sees that one of his friends was killed, literally loses it. I don’t know what became of him. The worst is that the High Command tried to cover up the whole story and tried to justify the war despite every single incident pointing out its injustice.

10 thoughts on “Battle for Haditha (2007) A Powerful Movie on the War in Iraq

  1. Guy Savage says:

    Thanks Caroline: I hadn’t heard of this, and I like Broomfield films. Don’t know if I can watch this though.

  2. warmoviebuff says:

    I got to watch it and two things struck me immediately. 1. It is quite good. 2. Should I dislike it because it is inaccurate in an unfair way? (I pondered this question from the opening where Broomfield does not capitalize Marines).

    After finishing it, I immediately started researching. It turns out the lovers and haters are divided based on how they perceive the accuracy of the film. The haters consider it a slander on the Marine Corps and Al Qaeda propaganda.

    I finally found the transcript from the PBS Frontline ( a source I respect ) episode on the incident. I read the whole transcript. My verdict is that it is pretty accurate, but a little biased. The names were changed and most importantly the main character Ruiz does in the movie what the sergeant actually did. The five people in the car were indeed suspicious and apparently ran. The events in the two houses were most likely close to what happened. There was a cover-up and the video eventually was a key piece of evidence. I found the soldier talk and behavior to be a little over the top, but since many of the actors were ex-soldiers I guess it was within reason.

    Broomfield chose not to include a third house where four armed insurgents initiated fire and were killed. This is most likely because it did not fit his theme. There was nothing about the lover being shot because he was running. There was nothing about a Predator drone taking out an olive tree planter because he was carrying a hoe.

    • I think it is OK to be biased in this case. The basic message is: the US wanted to cover this up and the war was not justified. The Marines unfortunately stand for the system. It’s not so much anti-Marines as anti-Bush. I actually found the depiction of Ramirez quite just. He isn’t simply inhumane, he does report his problems and no one listens.
      Btw it isn’t a documentary so some liberties with details are justified too. I my opinion when a man with a gun stands in fron of someone without and the one without ends up dead the one with the gun should take the blame. Simplistic but morally correct.
      In this case there were a lot of men with guns and a lot of dead people without ended up dead. Basic equation.

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    I read several reviews that said it was unrealistic that the Marines behaved that way. I have read a lot on how soldiers react in combat and I believe it is plausible that they would react that way to an IED death. It reminded me of My Lai only in My Lai they had not taken casualties as they entered the village. Also, we should not underestimate how boring war is for the most part so when you do see action, with the adrenalin flowing, you will do things you might not otherwise do. This explains the kiling of the men in the car. However, absolutely nothing justifies what happened in the first two houses. Marines are supposed to be tough enough to take fire before firing back and once women and children were lying dead, a red light should have gone up.

    I was reminded of “Jarhead” where the main character was distraught over not getting a kill to justify all his training. This is what you get with a volunteer Marine Corps consisting of young men who are trained to kill and encouraged to “get some”.

    BTW I read one review that compared it to “Rome, Open City”. Can you address that?

    • Generation Kill adresses a lot of these dynamics as well. The older and wiser officers always have to have an eye on the young ones who think wr is just a more realistic form of video game. That’s why I like the “Iceman”. He really never loses his cool. Ramirez isn’t exactly like that at all.
      There is nothing similar to Rome, Opne City. Not every movie in which a civilian loses his/her life can be compared to Rome, Open City, that’s really stretching it. I guess this must have been said by someone who isn’t familira with the topic and the genre. You could compare it to Bloody Sunday which I reviwed a while back and which disturbed me quite a bit.
      When you think you go somewhere to help people and you feel all the hatred coming, that is hard to take I suppose.

    • d. h. gilmour says:

      You are full of shit, just like most of this movie. Probably never served, draft or volunteer. U.S. Marine Corps has been volunteer for all but 6 years of its 239 year existence, 1942-45 and 1966-68. If an NCO had acted like the ones in this movie when I was on active duty in the 60’s, they would not have been an NCO long, but a Brig Rat. Hell if a Marine had acted like the punk kids did in this movie on patrol, they would have been busted and served brig time and been lucky to get out with better than a Bad Conduct Discharge. The actions of the punks starring in this film are more like those of today’s irresponsible drug and gang punks in our school systems, especially sports organizations since the 90’s. Many falsehoods in this film about both sides and actually I believe it was the writer/director’s personal way to blast Bush financed with other people’s money. Hope they lost their backside. Bloomfield is definitely a leftist, a liar, and quite probably a Barry Soetoro fecal track kisser, making him an total anti-American, pro One World Order Facist. As to the outcome of the truth in the incident, they were found not guilty which made the whole premise of this film a LIE. And Murtha, the turncoat EX-Marine, went to his grave and Hades for blasting his brother Marines for political expediency, before any investigation, and then failing to apologize when found innocent. Note I said EX. Until and except for John Murtha (D Pa.), I never saw or heard of an ex-Marine. As for his awarded medals, they were expedient for his political plans for the future, just like the false Silver Star awarding to another lying Democrat, Lyndon Bastard Johnson.

    • d. gilmour says:

      Again you know nothing of what you are talking about. My Lai was the site of many casualties every time the unit went by it on night missions. “Jarhead” was another movie that had little to do with truth of Marine Corps training and the same to a lesser degree about “Full Metal Jacket”. Your name tells the whole story….”warmoviebuff” as well as it being an alias, just like your choice for POTUS more than likely. a student of fake life, movies, and relating them to real life. betcha watch the so called “reality” crapola also

  4. I cannot add much to what you say and think you are mostly right.

  5. […] I had to compare it to two much later movies as well. One being Black Hawk Down, the other one Battle for Haditha. I’m sure I will write more about this movie in the future, looking at parallels to other […]

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