Nick Broomfield’s searing, powerful, and morally entangled Battle for Haditha is a speculative dramatization of events that led up to the November 2005 killing of over a dozen Iraqi civilians. Broomfield is best known as the one-man-band documentarian who made Biggie & Tupac, Kurt & Courtney, and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer. Here, working on a budget of $3 million, he achieves the vivid desolation, the jagged and unsettling frat-house-in-hell landscape of blood, terror, and chaos that one associates with war epics like Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. A smart executive in Hollywood should take note.
The movie shows us the Iraq war from both sides. Ahmad (Falah Abraheem Flayeh), a bone-weary middle-aged insurgent who buries and detonates an IED in a domestic neighborhood, has no illusions about the al-Qaeda operatives he gets the bomb from. He thinks they’re ”f—ing idiots.” Yet he also wants the Americans out. Corporal Ramirez, a (fictionalized) U.S. squad leader played with brilliant, dead-eyed ferocity by former Marine Elliot Ruiz, is just as driven to protect his men. When the bomb explodes, the movie portrays the actions of Ramirez and his fellow soldiers unblinkingly, as a warped outcry of duty and fear. To have captured this madness, and to have done it with this stark an overlap of horror and humanity, establishes Broomfield as a filmmaker of major dimension. A