The Ground Truth

"Good"

The Ground Truth Review


Less a documentary on the long-term effects of the Iraq War on combatants than an advertisement for a miscellany of anti-war groups, The Ground Truth does contain (in an abbreviated form, at least) a dose of sorely needed reality for an unaware nation, even if it can't ultimately muster up one single, compelling thesis.

The film's "war is hell" focus comes at viewers hard and heavy right away, putting up still photos of dead American servicemen, and continues all the way as it continually cuts back to images of bloody corpses, both Iraqi and American. At first, it appears that director Patricia Foulkrod is taking a run at the military apparatus itself, a fat and quite inviting target, to say the least. Foulkrod's talking heads are mostly vets, many of them Marines, with plenty to say on many subjects, especially recruiting and the military's hypocrisy. The U.S. military remains strangely prissy about addressing death, its raison d'etre, never once referring to killing in its manuals. This point gets muddied when the film's focus shifts to the dehumanizing rituals of basic training, in which recruits recite bloodthirsty chants about butchering babies. Is Foulkrod saying that the military pretends killing doesn't happen or that it's creating a force of soulless butchers?

This inability to sustain a particular point of view crops up repeatedly throughout The Ground Truth, obscuring some very necessary and effectively delivered testimony by the on-screen veterans. In a sort of latter-day version of the infamous "Winter Soldier" testimony about Vietnam War atrocities, the vets tell of the Iraqi civilians they killed, either honestly thinking they were insurgents or honestly having gotten to the dark place where they just didn't care. Like recovering addicts, many seem to have a moment of clarity after a particularly unnecessary death where they wonder, "Why am I here?" It's one of the better evocations of inexorability of the soldier's killing urge, one that utterly eluded, say, Sam Mendes' Jarhead. Here again, however, Foulkrod obscures the main point: are these deaths an inevitable function of war which the military just won't acknowledge, or is it a unique characteristic of the Iraq War?

In the film's most potent segments, Foulkrod moves from these instances of civilian deaths to how the vets are adjusting to life back home. It's a sad litany of paranoia, PTSD, survivors' guilt, suicide, and the special trauma of those having to figure out how to live with missing limbs. Adding insult to injury is the sight of these soldiers, having given everything they had, being systematically denied treatment by a Defense Department that seems populated entirely by insurance claims adjusters, eager to deny veteran's benefits.

A bulk of the film's better points, however, get squandered by its closing segments, which don't bring the preceding arguments to a conclusive statement (or even an acknowledgement that there may be no easy answer) and instead launch into yet another point of view, namely, that the war should be stopped. Even for the intellectual confusion of the bulk of the film preceding, The Ground Truth contains much that is absolutely vital; that is, the person who would turn away in horror from the truths expressed and shown here has no business supporting the war. However, by turning itself at the last minute into an anti-war advertisement -- a position it could have obviously taken anyway, but should have taken the time to lay the groundwork for early on -- and a rather clumsy one, at that, the film loses a grand opportunity: to preach to the unconverted.

I wish this was a Segway.



The Ground Truth

Facts and Figures

Run time: 72 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 19th January 2006

Box Office Worldwide: $12.2 thousand

Budget: $500 thousand

Distributed by: Focus Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Patricia Foulkrod

Producer: Jon Faix Kayyem, Andrew Mysko, Louise J. Wannier, Jodie Evans, Dal LaMagna, Carl Linderum, Victor Scherb, Patricia Foulkrod

Starring: Sean Huze as Himself, Robert Acosta as Himself, Kelly Dougherty as Herself, Patricia Foulkrod as Host / Interviewer

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