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Four American soldiers nearing the end of their tour of duty in Iraq are part of a unit sent on one final humanitarian mission to bring medical supplies to a remote Iraqi village. When their unit is ambushed and sustains heavy losses, the surviving troops suffer physical and psychological injuries. As they return home, the four have to live with their traumatic memories while managing a return to civilian life. Tommy (Brian Presley) cannot forget watching his best friend die, while Jamal (Curtis Jackson, a.k.a. 50 Cent) lives with the memory of the innocent Iraqi woman he gunned down in a firefight. Will (Samuel L. Jackson), a combat medic, drowns his traumas in alcohol. Single mum Vanessa (Jessica Biel) struggles with her new prosthetic arm, as well as the fact that the boyfriend she has returned home to can no longer look her in the eye.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For all its predictability, Home of the Brave is an honourable and well intentioned effort to explore the trauma of war vets coming home from the hell of Iraq to the different kind of hell of suburban Spokane, Washington. On its theatrical release, many critics compared it (unfavourably) to William Wyler's 1946 classic Best Years of Our Lives. That's reasonable as a generalised comparison, but meaningless for those who might be attracted to Home of the Brave for contempo reasons; not everyone has seen the 1946 movie and many would have a new take on this film. Besides, WWII was a war in which America's participation was not the subject of deep social divide as is the war in Iraq. As a new movie about an old condition in a new war, this film has little new to say, but what it says is nevertheless valid.

Performances are excellent, and the opening battle sequences are harrowing, visceral and full of the veracity that makes a war movie so gut wrenching. But just as gut wrenching is the aftermath of war on these men - and woman (Jessica Biel) - as they re-enter the now meaningless world of suburbia. This is Irwin Winkler's achievement, the (perhaps too frequent) intercutting of flashbacks to the war zone from suburban life. But that's to show how the two environments come into conflict in the hearts and souls of the vets.

It's too easy to pick holes in a film like this for critics who have never been in the line of fire or the chaos of a war zone. In many ways the film is part of America's attempt to digest the enormity of their endeavour in Iraq. The country is sacrificing thousands of their young men (and many young women) without the benefit of either domestic or global respect for that enormous price. Perhaps the most effective scenes are the quietest (like when two of the vets compare antidepressants at a multiplex) in a movie that deals with an issue of permanent relevance to us warring humans. Sad to say. And I suspect the film also offers a modicum of catharsis and comfort to the real vets.

Published: May 22, 2008

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(US, 2006)

CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Brian Presley, Curtis 50 Cent Jackson, Christina Ricci, Chad Michael Murray, Victoria Rowell, Jeff Nordling, Vyto Ruginis, Sam Jones III, James MacDonald

PRODUCER: Rob Cowan, George Furla, Avi Lerner

DIRECTOR: Irwin Winkler

SCRIPT: Mark Friedman, Irwin Winkler

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tony Pierce-Roberts

EDITOR: Clayton Halsey

MUSIC: Stephen Endelman


RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes


DVD DISTRIBUTOR: All Interactive

DVD RELEASE: February 15, 2008

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